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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Giuliani Stirs Chaos With Spin on Mueller & Comey; Giuliani: Kushner Is Disposable, But Ivanka Is Off Limits; Fate Of Three American Detainees Release Still Unknown. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired May 3, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Now, they go to obstruction of justice, collusion among the players.
[16:30:03] What they're trying to do is trap him in perjury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, let's talk about --
GIULIANI: And we're not suckers.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Giuliani expressed his disappointment and frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions who recused himself from the Russia probe and urged Sessions and the deputy attorney general to shut down the investigation.
GIULIANI: The two of them can redeem themselves, Sessions and Rosenstein. They should order the investigation over.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I don't think that's going to happen. Do you?
GIULIANI: I don't think it's going to happen either.
SCHNEIDER: Giuliani said he doesn't want an in-person interview of the president to happen but if it does there should be strict parameters.
GIULIANI: I think Jay and I will insist to treat him the same way as Clinton, two and a half hours. We end. We walk out. I would like to get one not under oath. I'd want it a videotape and not videotape but audiotapes. I want to make sure they don't misrepresent his answers.
SCHNEIDER: Giuliani focused much of his fire on the man he once hired to serve under him in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, fired FBI Director James Comey.
GIULIANI: Sorry, Jim. You're a liar. A disgraceful liar.
SCHNEIDER: And Giuliani claimed another reason the president fired the FBI director last May.
GIULIANI: He fired Comey because Comey would not among other things say that he wasn't a target of the investigation. He's entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that. And he couldn't get that. So, he fired him and he said I'm free of this guy. SCHNEIDER: The official White House reasoning at the time was that
Comey had mishandled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and days later the president himself said this.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
SCHNEIDER: Comey's firing is now one subject of Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation, meanwhile former Trump campaign director, Michael Caputo, was interviewed by the special counsel team's Wednesday and he said they had very specific questions centered on collusion.
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMAPIGN ADVISER: These guys know more about the Trump campaign than any one person that worked there. I think they're focused on Russian collusion and I think they believe that they'll get to something. I just disagree.
SCHNEIDER: And when it comes to the firing of James Comey, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, she responded to Rudy Giuliani's latest revelation. She said that there were a number of reasons why the president fired the FBI director and then said bottom line, is that the president doesn't have to justify the firing. Of course, Jake, the firing of James Comey is just one part of this obstruction investigation by Mueller's team -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Jessica Schneider, thank you so much. My political panel is back with me. The question, of course, why would Rudy Giuliani be revealing this now and does it help Robert Mueller? I'm going to get to your answers when we come back from this quick break.
[16:37:02] TAPPER: We're back with the political panel now.
The reasoning for firing Comey has had quite the evolution. The day that Comey was fired, the president's initial statement blamed recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The next day then deputy White House press secretary said the president lost confidence in Comey. She also said Comey failed to stop leaks at the FBI. She noted errors that Comey had made in Senate testimony. The day after that, May 11th was that NBC Lester Holt interview where the president suggested he had the Russia thing on his mind when he made the decision to fire Comey.
Fast forward to last month, the president tweeted Comey was not fired because of the, quote, phony Russia investigation. And then, you have, of course, last night, Giuliani says Comey was fired because he wouldn't say that President Trump wasn't a target in the investigation.
So, Kaitlan Collins, so why did President Trump fire Comey? We have not gotten a straight answer during this whole time.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it depends on what day of the week you ask. Even the president himself, of course, he tweeted a month ago that he didn't fire James Comey because of the Russia investigation. And then now, Rudy Giuliani who we should note spoke with President Trump before that Sean Hannity interview last night and after goes on and says that the reason he fired him was because Comey wouldn't tell him he wasn't the subject of the investigation.
And we should note that James Comey has said he wouldn't tell the president that because he wasn't the subject of the investigation and told the president that and wouldn't make a public statement to correct that public statement should the president come under investigation ala Hillary Clinton. It was the president who wanted James Comey to go out there and make that public statement. So, the Rudy Giuliani saying that they're going back with what the president told Lester Holt a year ago and seeing how the White House doesn't have a straight answer for why they fired James Comey.
And Sarah Sanders laughed about it today at the briefing today when she was asked about this changing story from the White House. And I actually thought this was one of the more explosive parts of Rudy's interview last night.
COLLINS: In addition to what he said about Stormy Daniels. It raises all kinds of questions. It's certainly something that special counsel Robert Mueller is going to be looking at.
TAPPER: Robby Mook, do you think that there's a strategy here? I mean, is there a reason Rudy Giuliani would reveal this now?
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the theory that's been out there is trying to get dirty laundry out on their own terms. I definitely see some truth to that.
You know what I just find amusing about this whole thing, the one thing that this administration used to be, quote/unquote, good at was lying and it's like they can't even lie anymore. I -- you know? They can't even keep the lie consistent.
And let's be clear. This is like everything else we have seen so far. They fired Comey because of the investigation, because Trump wanted to get rid of the investigation. Everything is telling us that. Even the words they're saying are telling us that.
So, at this point, I don't even know that it should be in doubt that that was the reason that this was done.
TAPPER: I mean, that's the reason -- he told the Russians that it was, you know, once he fired Comey, he got the pressure off.
[16:40:00] BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, WEEKLY STANDARD: Kaitlan Collins' (ph) point of view, he may think he made a mistake in firing Comey because he ended up with Mueller, who maybe tougher to deal with. But probably he thinks the mistake he made was not laying the ground well enough for justifying the -- you know, from rallying his base to support the firing of Comey, not discrediting and attacking and slandering Comey enough ahead of time, A, and then B, making sure that Sessions and Rosenstein didn't appoint someone as formidable as Mueller.
I think the lesson of Trump is he's paid no price for the lying and only problem he has is Robert Mueller and I think he is laying the groundwork and that's what Giuliani is doing. That's one of the things he said last night was the incredible assault on the Department of Justice.
Someone, the president's personal attorney, I guess that's what Giuliani is, says the deferment of justice, what were the terms he used, I can't remember, out of control, sort of, you know, disgraceful investigation, Sessions --
TAPPER: Stormtroopers, he mentioned stormtroopers.
KRISTOL: That's the FBI guys I think.
Sessions and Rosenstein should end it, Giuliani said. A month, two months ago, we are cooperating, we hope it will end. This investigation's coming the year -- Mueller's appointment I think May 16th. So, two weeks from now the one-year anniversary of it.
I think Trump's entirely capable and I think consistent with what he and the team doing saying one year is crazy that this is still going on. They proved nothing, there's no collusion. He says that over and over and because he's learned in public relations, repetition works. It's a witch hunt. I'm ending it, I'm firing.
And I wouldn't be surprised at this point, if he'd fire Sessions, Rosenstein and Mueller all of them. Mueller, it's question of Trump to fire him directly. Trump asserted in passing that, of course, I can fire Mueller. That's part of the presidential power and no on really has challenged him on that, so he's laying the groundwork for that, too. So, I think we are heading to Trump finishing the job of his point of view and doing the best to end the investigation.
Whether it would really ends it because of course it would go on and the Justice Department is another question. Would he buy time and turn it into a huge political battle which he thinks he is better off at having than a legal battle. Legal battle is playing defense and he's defending things as with Stormy Daniels payments that are hard to defend. A political battle, he may not win it, but he could probably fight it to a draw given the behavior of Republicans on the Hill and of his base and the support he's got from his base so far.
TAPPER: We'll talk more about it, Bill, but you sound very disappointed with Republicans on Hill. Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot to talk about. Who knew you
couldn't go after a, quote, fine woman? Why does Rudy Giuliani think that Ivanka Trump should be off limits?
Stay with us.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In our "POLITICS LEAD," another stunner from President Trump's new attorney Rudy Giuliani, he called Jared Kushner the President's aide and son-in-law disposable and in that same breath said that first daughter Ivanka Trump is off limits to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER, DONALD TRUMP: Jared is a fine man. You know that. But men are, you know, disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka, come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Jared is disposable. Robby Mook, saying that in the context of a federal investigation is a rather stunning thing to say.
ROBBY MOOK, FORMER MANAGER, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Yes. And obviously, the original sin here was that the President appointed his children. I mean, just think about that for a second, appointed his children to official White House posts. So sometimes we forget they are actually, you know, taxpayer-funded White House officials right now. And for that reason alone, they can't be immune. I would say they can't be immune anyway but the President can't have this both ways. He can't put his children in positions of enormous power particularly in the case of Jared and then you know, say they're off limits. The disposable comment is beyond me. I think I assume the President had had some conversation with Giuliani where they wanted to lay down the predicate that Ivanka is somehow off limits. I don't really understand what the threat is. I don't understand -- you know, I think by saying that there will be a public backlash, they're actually making it less likely that there will be one now so I don't -- I don't really understand the rationale behind the strategy but I assume there's a conversation about calling Jared expendable. Everybody else whose gone up against Jared so far has lost their job so I -- it would be interesting to see where this goes.
TAPPER: Robby, I don't want to relitigate it but just for the record, when Bill Clinton was president he did put his wife in charge of health care. I know it wasn't for money and I don't want to get into a whole thing, but I mean --
MOOK: I think the First Lady -- the First Lady is a little different. First lady is different.
TAPPER: OK. I just -- I just wanted to make that note. Back to Jared, Bill Kristol, do you think Jared Kushner in any way could ever flip on the President if he -- if he had damaging information? BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I don't know. The President could flip on him I think. I mean, he was part of that Trump Tower Meeting. Obviously at some point, I mean, Mike Caputo has some very interesting quotes that you had on tape earlier about how they called that it was all about Russia collusion, it was contrary to what Trump keep saying, it's only about obstruction, now it's not about collusion and that they had a huge amount of information, presumably the Trump Tower Meeting is part of that. Jared Kushner was part of that meeting. I don't believe we think that Kushner hasn't yet testified before Mueller, and so we don't know. Maybe, but that would be very interesting moment and I think Trump has, you know, knows that that's part of the -- part of what might happen. I do think they very much want to make it sort of illegitimate to call Ivanka Trump, though there are reasons why and the course of the investigation you might want to get her information. So I guess she couldn't testify about what she and husband. She would have protection about her husband, deny about other things and she was very involved in the campaign. So again, I don't know what exactly Giuliani had in mind about the disposable thing. It seems a little silly but it's a reminder in general of what Mueller knows. I think just the Caputo comments and how much he still can find out. He hasn't -- he's got a lot of other people he can now pressure, there are people he hasn't called to testify yet who are going to who are going to be central to this.
[16:50:13] TAPPER: Right.
KRISTOL: And again, that's why I think Trump looking at all this thinks I cannot -- the Mueller investigation is mortal threat to the presidency. Getting rid of them all is a threat and you know, it would be difficult but that he's more confident fighting than actually trying to defend himself against whatever Mueller ultimately finds I think.
TAPPER: That might happen. Kaitlan Collins, Ivanka, and President Trump are obviously very, very close. You could argue that she is the closest person to him in his inner circle. Mueller has not interviewed her yet. Politico reports, "Mueller's decision to steer clear of the first daughter at least for now is a signal of his don't poke the bear until you have to strategy." Do you think Mueller is afraid that interviewing Ivanka would ultimately push the President to fire him as Bill Kristol was just discussing?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, that could be an option. Of course, the President does holds Ivanka in high regards. He put here in one of the highest, most coveted position in the White House, but would it be that surprising if Mueller did call Ivanka to speak with him either in an interview or however he would do that because look at everything she knows. She was involved in the campaign for some time. She was on that flight back from Germany when they dictated that statement about why they held that Trump Tower meeting when it was -- that false statement saying that it was actually about Russian adoption when of course, it was in hopes of securing dirt on Hillary Clinton and she was also in Bedminster, New Jersey with the President and several other White House staffers, the weekend that the President made up the mind to fire the former FBI Director James Comey. Now, the level of Ivanka's involvement in all those decisions and in day-to-day operations at the White House, of course, is still in question but it would not be that surprising if Mueller did want to find out what Ivanka knows. But certainly, it could be the one thing that sent the President over the edge. Of course, he's not happy with Robert Mueller and Ivanka is someone he holds very, very highly in regard.
TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. We got lot more to about. Why's the President's lawyer telling the world that three Americans detained in North Korea are being released, though the White House and the State Department say right now they cannot validate that report. Is anyone on the same page? Why is Giuliani making this announcement? Stay with us.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "WORLD LEAD," the White House says they cannot confirm reports this three American detainees in North Korea will be released soon. This coming as hours after both President Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani hinted at potentially very good news that they would be released leaving the families of the three men in what I can only imagine is unbelievable suspense. A source with knowledge of the negotiations tells CNN that their release is in fact imminent. CNN's Paula Hancocks joins me now. And Paula, U.S. officials said the White House is confident, but have we seen any evidence that North Korea has moved these detainees?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Jake. We haven't seen that evidence at this point. We've been checking with all of our sources. One official with knowledge of these ongoing negotiations says that they can't confirm that these three have actually been moved from a labor correctional facility to closer to Pyongyang, the capital. So that simply hasn't been stood up at this point. And we've heard from the White House and from the State Department that they can't confirm these reports. We have the report from this official that it is imminent and this is apparently following months of talks. The foreign minister Ri Yong-ho went to Sweden back in March which we reported on at the time. And apparently according to this official it's there that he proposed releasing the three individuals. But the U.S. officials that were being told at that point said they didn't want it linked to the issue of denuclearization. So the families we understand, have not heard anything more and officials here haven't heard anything more. So up until this point, Jake, what we are hearing about this potentially being today is simply from Rudy Giuliani.
TAPPER: And, Paula, in the Trump tweet, President Trump seemed to cast some shade on President Obama for being ineffectual when it came to the issue of getting detainees released. We should point out, two of these three detainees were captured while President Trump was in office.
HANCOCKS: That's right, yes. There's only one, Kim Dong Chul who was actually arrested back in October 2015. He was detained for espionage and found guilty for espionage and charged with ten years hard labor. The other two who were teaching at a university in Pyongyang, they were both detained while Trump was in office, so certainly you're correct there, Jake. And they were detained for hostile acts which is really unspecified what exactly the North Koreans believe that they had done, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Paula Hancocks in Seoul, South Korea for us, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Before I go, we have a couple news items in the "SHAMELESS PLUG LEAD." My new novel the Hellfire Club is set to debut at number three on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover fiction, so thank you to all of you who have been buying it and if you have not yet, you can get your copy of the Hellfire Club on amazon.com or at your local bookstore. And here's the second bit of news. I should note that Millennium Films and Director Rod Lurie announced today that they will be making a film version of The Outpost; An Untold Story of An American Valor which is my nonfiction book about the men and women who serve at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan and the people who love them. It stars Scott Eastwood as the Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha, Caleb Landry Jones as Specialist Ty Carter. Both Romesha and Carter were later awarded the Medal of Honor and Orlando Bloom will play First Lieutenant Ben Keating for whom the outpost was named. The film will begin shooting in August. That's it for THE LEAD. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.