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Report: Trump Says African-American Male Support Has Doubled Thanks to Kanye West; Giuliani Reference To Payment Timing Was "My Understanding; Trump Legal Team Makes Final Push Toward Trump Meeting with Mueller; Kellyanne Conway Says the President Is Very Honest. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 4, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Of terrorists, really not veering too much into policy here at all but clearly trying to reassure gun activists and the NRA, which are going to be huge power players in 2018 and 20 that he is fully behind them and with them.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Making that point very clear. He was also, though, touting -- we talk a lot about the president's base but what the president likes to talk about, too, is the growing support, the growing support he sees. He's touting the unemployment numbers he got today and talking about unemployment among African-Americans, among Hispanics, among women, thanking Kanye West, citing a poll that seems to have found which the pollsters said maybe you shouldn't go with this with a huge jump in support, from 11 percent to 22 percent, among African-American men saying it's all due to Kanye West. Is this him trying to reach out and broaden that base today?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No, I don't think so. He wants to mention KANYE WEST because there was a lot of chatter around Kanye West, who apparently supports President Trump and got a lot of blow back from African-Americans of his support and some of the things he said about slavery. This poll seems to be an outlier. But it is true that African-American men are more likely to support Republicans and certainly much more supportive of Donald Trump than African-American women. That is sort of an interesting thing here.

I thought this was a very effective speech, one that can travel. If he's going on the road for the mid terms and some Republicans will want him there. I thought he's very much able to tie this idea that the Mueller investigation is bad for the country. And this is something that he had talked about earlier, but he seems to be able to flesh it out much more now. Because he's talking of the things that he's done that he thinks are good, he's protecting our country, he's got this North Korea summit coming up at some point. He's tough on immigration, cracking down on sanctuary cities and there is mean old Mr. Mueller, right, who is really trying to go after him, to tarnish what he's doing and hurt the country.

So, I think in that way it's a speech that, you know, Republicans don't really know how to deal with the kind of Mueller cloud. But I think in this speech Trump is heading somewhere. And this is going to be a theme of his, this idea of Mueller is a bad guy and he's trying to interrupt a lot of the progress that he sees the country is making.

HILL: Paul, I want to bring you in on that point because we started talk about this just before the president took the stage earlier. What the judge is saying is that the special counsel has overstepped its boundaries with these charges involving Paul Manafort. From a purely legal perspective here, strip away all the politics. Is there a sense that in this case the special counsel did overstep?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You could make the argument. When Mueller was appointed, he was given the job of looking into this so- called Russian collusion theory, that the Russians had colluded with the Trump campaign, but if he stumbled on other criminal activity in the course of his investigation, he was allowed to pursue those leads. In this particular case, he actually went back to Rod Rosenstein, Mueller did, and asked for specific authority to investigate Manafort for specific activities possibly related to Russian collusion.

And that's where we get into all the Manafort money laundering and his connections with the Russians, which predate the Trump campaign. I'm sure the theory here is those connections that were made by Manafort prior to the campaign may suggest that he had contacts with the Russians, maybe the very same Russians during the campaign. So, it seems to me that there is a relevance directly to what his assigned job was. It's unusual for a judge to attack prosecutors like this. Usually they're pretty supportive of prosecutors. So, this is unusual by federal judge.

HILL: Well, not much is usual these days. Stay with us. We're going to continue our discussion. Also, ahead, Rudy Giuliani now attempting to clear up some of his confusion over Stormy Daniels. Who knew what when? What does he have to say now? That's next.


HILL: Moments before the president took the stage at the NRA meeting, Rudy Giuliani tried to clarify his own comments. Remember all of this began with Giuliani saying the president what paid back $130,000 in hush money that his attorney paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. It's a payout the president has said he didn't know about.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMPS ATTORNEY: I was talking about the $130,000 payment, the settlement payment, which is a very regular thing for lawyers to do. The question there was the only possible violation there would be was it a campaign finance violation, which usually would result in a fine, by the way, not this big storm troopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office. That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, doesn't matter. The president reimbursed that over a period of several months.


HILL: That was Wednesday night. The president later tweeted and basically talked about those retainer fees and how they were used in that regard. Today here's what the president had to say.


[15:40:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago. But he really has his heart into it, he's working hard, he's learning the subject matter, and he's going to be issuing a statement, too. He started yesterday, ah, he'll get his facts straight. He's a great guy.


HILL: We know of course Rudy Giuliani started a couple weeks ago. You heard the president mention a statement that would be coming from Rudy Giuliani. We have that statement for you now. "this is intended to clarify the views I expressed over the past few days. These are my views. First, there was no campaign finance violation. Second, my reference is to timing. We're not describing my understanding of the president's knowledge but instead my understanding of these matters.

Third, it is undisputed that the president's dismissal of former director Comey was clearly within his article 2 power. Recent revelations about former director Comey further confirmed the wisdom of the president's decision, which was plainly in the best interest of our nation." Joining us now, CNN legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa, who also of course was an FBI special agent. When we look at this did any of Rudy Giuliani's comments or what we heard from the president, could any of this have put the president in any legal trouble?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it definitely can. I think that's what Rudy Giuliani is alluding to in his most recent statement is that what he's done is essentially create jeopardy for the president in terms of being aware of what would be considered in-kind contributions to his campaign. And those would have been required to be disclosed and the amount would have been above the required limit. And also, his personal financial disclosures would have had to reveal that he was making these loan repayments essentially back to Michael Cohen. So, I think that now Giuliani is in a position where he's trying to backtrack, and it is not a good sign, Erica, when your own lawyer has to correct public statements that he made on national television.

HILL: Typically, you bring in the lawyer to help you correct things.

RANGAPPA: That's right.

HILL: This is just coming into us here. A source familiar with resident Trump's legal team now telling CNN Mr. Trump's lawyers are working on a final resolution on an interview with Bob Mueller, despite that tough rhetoric that we heard from Rudy Giuliani, the source saying there's a 50/50 chance of an interview happening and Rudy Giuliani's performance was seen as a, quote, expletive show, would let you all fill in the blank stare and that it insulted the legal team. We heard the president say, I'd love to sit down with Robert Mueller, nobody wants to sit down with Robert Mueller more than me, but it has to be fair. Can you see a scenario where it actually moves the president closer to actually sitting down with special counsel?

RANGAPPA: His legal team if they are smart are not going to let him sit down with the special counsel. There is simply no up side for him, other than it looks like he's being cooperative. As a former FBI agent, I would love for this president to sit down with this interview because he will tie himself into knots trying to unravel what he and those speaking on his behalf of the mess they've created for him.

The president would be wise to just stay in the bounds of making constitutional arguments. I don't think he's going to succeed on those necessarily, but at least they don't necessarily make things worse for him. They look more legitimate than threatening to fire the special counsel or at this point letting other people go on television and try to make his case publicly on the facts, which are just not on his side. So, he's just not in a great position, Erica, no matter how you slice it.

HILL: we heard from the president he said earlier he'll get his facts straight in terms of Rudy Giuliani. Not clear if the president thinks the facts are straight in the statement from Rudy Giuliani. The other thing that we heard, you know, just in terms of muddying the water in some way was this explanation about the firing of James Comey, Rudy Giuliani talking more about that. And this is at least the third I think reason that has been given for why the president made that decision. Does this latest explanation from Rudy Giuliani come back to haunt the president?

[15:45:00] RANGAPPA: Well, I don't really understand what Giuliani's reasoning is. It seems to contradict what the president originally gave as Comey's firing, that, Comey mishandled the Hillary investigation by making public comments that were against Department of Justice protocol. Giuliani is saying that Trump fired Comey because Comey wouldn't publicly state that Trump wasn't under investigation. These two things are directly at odds. As you mentioned, there is still the third explanation, which the president gave to Lester Holt and to the Russian foreign minister, which is that he wanted the Russia investigation to go away. So, it's going to be interesting to see which one of these ends up being the reason that he gives to Mueller if he sits down for the interview.

HILL: A lot of big ifs there. Asha, thank you.

Just ahead are conservative media figures now turning on Donald Trump? A prominent Fox News host slamming the president. That's next.


HILL: The White House is dealing with the fallout over the changing narrative about the hush money payout to porn star Stormy Daniels. And of course, the growing questions of trust and credibility. It is not the first time, but something is different here. In fact, take a listen to what happened on Fox News.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS HOST: How can you drain the swamp if your the one who keeps muddying the waters? You didn't know about that $130,000 payment to a porn star until you did. Said you knew nothing about how your former lawyer Michael Cohen handled this until acknowledging today you were the guy behind the retainer payment that took care of this.

I guess you're too busy draining the swamp to ever stop and smell the stink that you are creating. That's your doing. That's your stink. Mr. President, that's your swamp.


HILL: Now Cavuto speaking directly to the president. CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" Brian Stelter joins me now. That was a remarkable moment and we also heard from "The Wall Street Journal's" editorial board writing, Trump is compiling a record that increases -- I lost my way here. That increases the likelihood that few will believe him during a genuine crisis and Trump should worry Americans will stop believing anything he says and that is a genuine concern, and that is what we were hearing last night on Fox as well. What has shifted that all of a sudden these facts now matter more?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think it is significant that these are two outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, a staunch ally of the president, and they may have disagreements but in general Fox News opinion shows and the "The Washington Times" editorial page have stood up for him and defended him and supported him so it's notable to hear a different tone that we have seen this week.

I think it is important to point out that there are a lot of folks on Fox like Sean Hannity that are still very much 100 percent in Trump's corner but Cavuto was speak being something important. I think people like Cavuto are thinking about their own futures and the country's future and whether or not the president is in office until 2020 or 2024 and there is a time after Trump and their reputations, these journalists' reputations, these editors' reputations are on the line as well.

They want to be on the right side of history and it is not right to support the constant lying and deceit from any White House -- right now the Trump White House, but when there is a Democrat in office some day in the future, these guys will be in the same position today saying, you have to be able to trust the president in a crisis.

HILL: And that is the big concern. And that was such an interesting message from both the paper -- from different news hosts. How much of that is, yes, it is a direct message to the president, but we could say, hey, Mr. President, you don't know whether he's watching or not, but we know the president does favor Fox News and we know he watches a lot of cable. How much of that was also a message to the viewers to your point about these folks now realizing this is bigger. And this will last longer.

STELTER: Right, I think we recognize many Trump supporters believe he speaks to a larger or bigger truth. So, when he gets the facts wrong or speaking in -- things that are down right crazy because he is speaking to a larger truth and that is a defense we frequently hear. But what I see all over the news media coverage of these issues is the recognition that we are not in a post-truth society. That is one of the fears -- that is a term we've heard a lot. Ever since inauguration day. Are we in a post-truth society? We only are if we all give up, on individual basis, if all of us as citizens and journalists just stop trying.

I think the way to frame it is, there are some people who may be post- truth and the president tried to operate in a post-truth universe where he makes it up as he goes long but we are not in a post-truth society and look the polls, Americans care about facts and accuracy and truth.

HILL: And they care about facts and accuracy and truth and that goes across the board. I found fascinating is what Kellyanne Conway had to say this morning. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we count on the president to be honest?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The president is very honest. He promised to cut taxes and he did. He promised to get North Korea and South Korea to sit down and change the course of history and they are. He has the delegation in China working on more fair, more reciprocal trade deals that stop screwing American workers and American businesses and interests and we have a half billion dollars trade deficit. That makes no sense to him.

[15:55:00] And you see him yesterday surrounded by different faith leaders of six different religions and the reformed man that he brought up to the podium, that is the president I work for and the president I know. You should look at his tweets on that matter.


HILL: You can look at his tweets. So, she's pointing out -- focus on these facts over here. Ignore the fact that there are all of these inconsistencies and not a lot of truth over here. You can't have it both ways.

STELTER: It is not possible to separate and when she said the president is honest, she's seen like the rest of us, "The Washington Post" count, 3000 falsehoods and lies in the first 16 months of the presidency. The data is undeniable,

it's indisputable, it is a record of embarrassment, but every day is a new day. Every day the president could be more careful with his words, the White House could be proof reading and fact checking before they issue statements. I'm still holding out hope.

HILL: Listen, I'll stay right there with you. Brian Stelter, always a pleasure.

Frightening images out of Hawaii, lava flowing into neighborhoods. We'll take you to the big island coming up. People living in Hawaii big island fleeing hot lava from a massive

volcano eruption. The Kilauea volcano erupting after earthquakes and the youngest and most active volcano and it is still erupting and that is forced massive evacuations. Residents describe lava burning through trees calling it a curtain of fire enveloping the area and one person said the eruptions are as high as 100 feet and sound like a bunch of rocks rumbling in a clothes dryer after cracks in the roads which have given way to white hot vapor and plumes and they are concerned about the high level of dangerous sulfur dioxide. I'm Erica Hill. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.