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Interview with Representative Eric Swalwell; President Trump Claims Date and Location Set for Kim Jong-un Summit; Interview with Representative Francis Rooney; Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 4, 2018 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:41] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. President Trump talked today about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and a key question of whether he will personally speak to investigators. Have a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody wants me to speak more than me. In fact, against my lawyers, because most lawyers say never speak on anything. I would love to speak. Because we've done nothing wrong. There was no collusion with the Russians, there was nothing. There was no obstruction.

I would love to go, I would love to speak but I have to be find that we're going to be treated fairly. It is a very unfair thing. If I thought it was fair, I would override my lawyers.


SCIUTTO: The president also said that all of the investigators on Mueller's team are Democrats, not something backed up by the facts. He also said that Robert Mueller worked under President Obama for eight years. That's also not true.

We're joined now by California Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. He joins me now.

Congressman Swalwell, first of all, thanks for taking the time. When you heard the president there, did it sound to you like he was floating a trial balloon, in effect, his excuse for saying no to an interview?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Jim, he's been given the questions which most suspects or witnesses are not given. He has been told by, you know, his team much of the evidence that exists in the case because of help he's received from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee.

I think it's time for him to just come clean, stop screwing around. If he's serious, take Bob Mueller up on the interview, sit down, answer the questions and get this over with. What this is doing is not just affecting Bob Mueller's investigation, he's created a mess for the country. And people at home who are counting on him to look out for their jobs, their health care, their kids' education, they're just looking at this guy and saying, you've made a mess of our country. And let's move on, and, you know, stop talking about it and just sit down.

SCIUTTO: Lost in the many headline-grabbing comments in the Rudy Giuliani interviews was a call he made regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying, in effect, that Sessions needs to step in now, speaking about the Russia investigation and end the investigation. That, of course, echoes, as you know, the president's public calls many times to bring this investigation to an end.

Does that concern you to hear that both from the president and the president's new lawyer?

SWALWELL: It very much concerns me, and it concerns me that the president has dozens of fixers in Congress now who are trying to bring Articles of Impeachment against Rod Rosenstein. So it is a multi- faceted effort to undermine Bob Mueller's investigation.

We're not helpless, though. We don't have to just sit and watch the undermining of the rule law. In Congress, we can pass the bipartisan legislation that exist that would protect Bob Mueller and only allow him to be fired for cause.

SCIUTTO: Does that legislation have a prayer right now? I know there've been some Republicans but McConnell himself, the Senate majority leader, has said he would not bring it to the floor.

SWALWELL: You know, it would have a prayer, Jim, if people tell their members of Congress and their senators that they do care about the rule of law. And right now this comes down to, who do you believe? Do you believe in Donald Trump or Bob Mueller? The country trusts Bob Mueller to do his job. They will accept the findings that he presents.

What they will not accept, though, is this continued torching of every floor of the FBI building and the Department of Justice to protect the president and the public is not going to look kindly on any lawmaker, Republican or Democrat who tries to get in the way of a lawful investigation.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Giuliani used that phrase, not the Storm Troopers, I believe, for FBI agents.

On this issue of the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, if -- before I go to that question, this is Donald Trump, a live picture there of the president arriving in Dallas, Texas. That's where he's going to be giving this speech at the NRA later, and we will bring you his comments there live when the president begins those remarks. The president walking down from Air Force One there on a rainy day in Dallas, Texas.

But back to Congressman Swalwell, while I have you here, I want to ask you to listen, if you can, to this exchange from yesterday's White House briefing regarding the Stormy Daniels payment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did the president file a fraudulent personal file financial disclosure last year when he filed a report that did not include a loan for Michael Cohen or any company affiliated with him? I mean, if there was no loan then what would he have been reimbursing?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't know. You would have to ask the president's outside counsel.


[13:35:01] SCIUTTO: It was an interesting line of questioning there. Again, those are live pictures on the right-hand side there of the screen. The president's arrival in Dallas, Texas, where he's going to speak shortly in front of the NRA, their conference, but we're still with Congressman Eric Swalwell, member of the House Intelligence Committee.

You listened to that comment there about whether -- sort of contingent question here, not only regarding the public misstatements but is it possible that the president broke the rules by not including a loan for Michael Cohen on his financial disclosure form? And is this something that Congress can pursue?

SWALWELL: It's certainly possible, Jim, but I think it's best for the FBI and the Federal Elections Commission to pursue it. You know, we shouldn't involve ourselves in, you know, what law enforcement's job is. But what this shows means that the president is willing to act in such a shadowy way to, you know, conduct business and make problems go away. That, as it relates to Russia, there's a lot of questions about whether he was acting in similar fashion.

And Jim, as he arrives in Dallas, I hope he acknowledges the police officers who were killed just a few years ago by a gunman who outgunned those officers with an assault weapon. I really do hope he talks about that and honors their service.

SCIUTTO: I did want to get to that today, we don't have time, but you wrote an op-ed today about the possibility of an assault weapons ban and buyback program. Worth reading.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, thanks very much for taking the time.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

SCIUTTO: As we said, we remain on standby for the president. That is a live picture from the floor of the NRA Congress -- conference, rather, in Dallas, Texas. The president is expected to take the stage there any minute while the White House is gripped, you might say, with a credibility crisis. Please stay with us.


[13:40:52] SCIUTTO: President Trump signaling that he is one step closer to meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.


TRUMP: We're in constant contact with the leadership. We are in constant contact with North Korea. We've actually worked out a time and a place which will be announced shortly.



TRUMP: And very soon.


SCIUTTO: While the exact details of that meeting may be certain there are mixed messages from the administration regarding the release of three Americans detained in North Korea. The National Security Council said there is still no update on their possible release and their status remains unclear. But the president said this morning or at least hinted otherwise.


TRUMP: We're having very substantive talks with North Korea and a lot of things have already happened with respect to the hostages, and I think you're going to see very good things. As I said yesterday stay tuned. I think you're going to be seeing very, very good things.


SCIUTTO: Let's bring in now Ryan Hass. He's a former national security adviser for President Obama specializing in China and Asia. Also a fellow of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.

Ryan Hass, thanks very much for joining us.


SCIUTTO: So first, big picture. It looks like this summit is going to come off. It seems there are at least very good chances that you have the three Americans released. What are the chances for the bigger step, though, for a some sort of peace deal between the U.S. and North Korea?

HASS: Well, it's a great question, Jim. It's interesting to watch, because on one hand President Trump continues to raise expectations. And it means one of two things, either that he knows something that the rest of the world doesn't about Kim Jong-un's intentions. Something that would cause him to override the decades of experience that we have dealing with the North Korean regime, that has reneged on every past agreement that's been made, or he is simply building buzz and creating an atmosphere around what will be -- he wants to be a very historic and successful meeting. And we aren't going to know the answer to that question until he gets there.

SCIUTTO: You know, Victor Cha who was going to be his ambassador to South Korea before he -- now we have Harry Harris going in there. But Victor commented, I thought an interesting point, said, you know, the trouble as you raise expectations is that it creates danger on the other side. Right? That if you don't meet those high expectations, then you fall off a precipice back to potential conflict.

HASS: Right. And that's been the pattern of diplomacy for decades, is that when diplomacy has seemed to have failed and there's no runway left, all that's left is military options, which is the danger of building expectations before you have solid, secure outcomes from a meeting such as this.

SCIUTTO: Look at where we are, though. To be fair, we're in a better place than we were two or three months ago. There were open threats going back and forth. There was genuine concern about at least the possibility of potential conflict between these two countries. Is it your view that the president's tough talk and the maximum pressure policy, that that has at least yield the fruits to get them to the table?

HASS: Yes. Well, I think that the president deserves some credit for getting us to the point that we've been to now. It's clear that the North Koreans would like three things. They would like a reduction in economic pressure and an economic lifeline. They would like to be welcomed back into the community of nations, and they would like to reduce the risk of conflict. And their judgment, their guess is that by entering into negotiations with President Trump as well as reaching out to Moon Jae-in in South Korea and Xi Jinping in China, that they can push themselves down that pathway.

SCIUTTO: So I hear two things about North Korea. Of course they want a lot. We want them to denuclearize. We want the nuke program to end. I hear two different things about that. I hear on the one side that listen, as much as they love them, they're in such financial dire straits that they're ready to deal now because it's a matter of economic survival but then I hear on the other hand nuclear weapons are survival for this regime. That they fear, you know, you look at the Saddam Husseins and the Muammar Gadhafis of the world, it's not a good mile. Which is more true in your view?

HASS: Well, if you look at the history of nuclear weapons in this world, there's never been an instance in which a country has tested a nuclear weapon and then given it up under outside pressure. So if North Korea were to do this it would be the first country in history to go down this path.

[13:45:01] On top of that, North Korea has a record of pledging to denuclearize while continuing to advance their nuclear program. So while I think that we all hope for the best case outcome, experience and history suggest that prudence and skepticism is warranted.

SCIUTTO: Just quickly, are you concerned that President Trump appears too eager for a deal?

HASS: Well, that's the concern especially with news today that President Trump is considering withdrawing troops from the Korean peninsula. The fear is that it sends a signal to Kim Jong-un that President Trump is so committed to the success of this summit that he will sacrifice strategic interests that no leader before him was willing to sacrifice. And in doing so, it will give Kim Jong-un the impression that he can afford to withhold giving up the very leverage he has, his nuclear weapons program and his missile program because President Trump is so committed to the success of this, this summit.

SCIUTTO: Ryan Hass, we're going to keep on this story. Thanks very much for helping us through it.

Any minute now, we're going to hear from President Trump himself at the NRA convention in Dallas. We're watching that. That's a live picture there. Please stay with us.


[13:50:31] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Any moment now President Trump will be taking that stage there in Dallas, Texas, to speak at the annual convention of the National Rifle Association, the NRA.

Joining me now, as we wait, Republican Congressman Francis Rooney.

Congressman Rooney, thanks very much for taking the time.

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: Jim, thanks for having me on.

SCIUTTO: As you well know, being a congressman from Florida in the wake of that horrible Parkland shooting, you proposed new gun safety laws, which included raising the minimum age to buy rifles. And you wanted also to end loopholes on background checks. The president even expressed support for some of those safety measure but we haven't heard a lot of that from the president. Really nothing since then. Why do you think he's abandoned those calls for change?

ROONEY: Well, I hope he hasn't abandoned them. You know, he did say some very positive things about gun violence reform, surely after Parkland and after Florida took some fairly courageous measures and then he went silent. I agree with you.

I hope he'll bring it back up. We desperately need to make sure that unstable people can't get guns, that background checks are pursued vigorously and that some of these loopholes are plugged.

SCIUTTO: Do you have the -- I don't want to say you're a lone Republican but you're not exactly surrounded by many of your caucus colleagues on these issues. Do you have -- do you believe -- is there enough support in Congress for measures along those lines?

ROONEY: I think there would be enough support if you looked at it from a bipartisan point of view but there are committee Republicans that have been speaking up. And I wish they would because, you know, we could protect the Second Amendment and still protect children.

SCIUTTO: Right. On another issue, Charlie Dent, a fellow Republican of course in the House, he says that Congress needs to look into the Stormy Daniels affair. Have a listen.


REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: If a Democratic president had paid off a porn star to keep quiet while he was president, I suspect we'd have oversight hearings and I'd suspect there probably should be some oversight hearings to get to the bottom of that. If a Democratic president had done this, we'd be waving a bloody shirt right now.


SCIUTTO: Interesting argument there from Charlie dent, a Republican, granted a retiring Republican. Do you agree with him that Congress should have an oversight role?

ROONEY: Not at this point. I think we need to know a little more about what happened. You know, Congress needs to pay attention to the oversight it's already got to take care of, which is not, you know, necessarily doing the best job of. We have Giuliani statements out there, now we have the president saying today that all the information will come out and that Giuliani spoke incorrectly. I think we ought to have a little time to seek thorough understanding of it.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this question. Do you think that this White House has a credibility problem on this and other issues, particularly when you have contradicting stories -- that contradictions coming from the president and his own personal lawyer on an issue that -- you know, the questions at least are pretty simple. Did you know or did you not know?

ROONEY: Well, you know, at one time or another, I think every administration has been challenged and tested. And that's part of what having a good First Amendment is all about, is doing that. We need to find -- it will be in the public's interest to know, you know, who paid who and when and probably what who knew. But, you know, there's no morality police test for being president. We've had a lot of presidents do a lot of pretty bad things.

SCIUTTO: You're of course on the Foreign Affairs Committee, with great interest in the issues with North Korea. Rudy Giuliani also commented on those three Americans being held in North Korea, announcing it seemed that they were going to be released. When asked about this, here is what the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.


SANDERS: We can't confirm the validity of any of the reports currently out about their release, but we certainly would see this as a sign of good will if North Korea were to release the three Americans ahead of discussions between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.


SCIUTTO: As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, have you, has Congress been briefed on the status of these negotiations?

ROONEY: No. All I know about it is what I read on CNN earlier today. We're in recess right now. But I'll tell you what, I'm comforted by the fact that we've got an A-team foreign policy leader like John Bolton at the helm here as we wade into negotiations with North Korea.

[13:55:03] You know, they've out-negotiated three consecutive presidents and I think that President Trump has got their attention like no one else has and it's going to take some serious discipline to keep from getting out-traded again.

SCIUTTO: Well, we're going to keep on that story, Congressman Rooney. Thanks very much for joining us today.

ROONEY: Thanks for having me on.

SCIUTTO: You are watching live pictures there. You can see Vice President Mike Pence has taken the stage at the NRA convention in Dallas, Texas. The president is going to be on that stage very soon. And we're going to take you to that convention live when it happens.