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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
"Wall Street Journal:" Trump Lawyers Hope to Decide By May 17 Whether or Not President Trump Will Voluntarily Testify in the Mueller Probe, Faced Frequent Interruptions at Practice Session; Politico: President Trump Grows Frustrated With Giuliani as Stormy Daniels Drama Continues; First Lady Unveils Initiative To Help Children Includes Plan To Combat Cyberbullying; Did A Private Intelligence Firm Try To Undermine Iran Deal?; New York Governor Calls for State Attorney General to Resign Amid Report He's Accused of Physical Violence by Four Women; Lava Consumes at Least 26 Homes on Hawaii's Big Island. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired May 7, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:09] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening. John Berman here in for Anderson.
There is breaking news tonight in the form of reporting from "The Wall Street Journal." The story putting a day on when the president and his team will decide whether or not President Trump will voluntarily testify in the Mueller probe. May 17th is the date they reportedly want to decide. Now, May 17th, you might remember, is the one-year anniversary of Robert Mueller being appointed special counsel.
"The Journal" also details some mock Q&A sessions the president has been involved in, and the results have been, shall we say, interesting.
The reporter who broke the story will join us shortly. But we begin tonight keeping them honest with a new noteworthy chapter in the never-ending ever-changing story coming from the president and the newest member of his legal team, Rudy Giuliani's new interview is full of twists and turns and at least one statement that is just not true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: So, what happens if Robert Mueller subpoenas the president? Will you comply?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUM'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Well, we don't have to, he's the president of the United States. We can assert the same privilege as other presidents have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Keeping them honest, it is not true that the president does not have to comply with a subpoena simply because he is president of the United States. In fact, let's remember how this has turned out for other presidents. The Supreme Court has been pretty clear, there was a subpoena ordering Richard Nixon to turn over tapes in the Watergate case and the Supreme Court ruled against the president, concluding the fundamental demands of due process of law overrode the president's argument to keep them private.
Then there was the Paula Jones civil case against Bill Clinton. Again, the Supreme Court ruled that President Clinton could not invoke presidential immunity to delay that case.
And the Monica Lewinsky case, independent counsel Ken Starr did get a subpoena for Clinton to testify, when the president agreed to the interview, that subpoena was withdrawn.
So, it's true the president could fight any subpoena, argue executive privilege, but there is certainly no guarantee that fight would be successful and historical evidence to the contrary.
Now, Giuliani showed up to this interview having already rocked the boat, admitting the president reimbursed Michael Cohen for the hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. That was after the president said on Air Force Once he didn't know about the payment. And the new interview, Giuliani dropped another doozy, what may be, if you forgive the oxymoron, the world's least surprising bombshell.
(BEGIN VIDEOP CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you said he, this was a regular arrangement he had with Michael Cohen. Did Michael Cohen make other payments to other women for the president?
GIULIANI: I have no knowledge of that. But I would think if it was necessary, yes. He made payments for the president, or, he conducted business for the president, which means he had legal fees, moneys laid out, and expenditures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Sarah Sanders was asked about this at the White House today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are there other women out there who received money from the president to stay quiet?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware of any other activity, but I would refer you to Rudy Giuliani to respond to any of those questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Oh, yes. Punt to Rudy Giuliani. That should clear everything right up.
So, getting back to the Mueller probe, there was Giuliani's statement that the president would not have to comply with a subpoena, again, historically not true if you look at the Supreme Court. And then there was this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you confident the president will not take the Fifth in this case?
GIULIANI: Oh, how could I ever be confident of that? When I'm facing a situation with the president and all the other lawyers are, in which every lawyer in America thinks he'd be a fool to testify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: So, Sarah Sanders was also asked about this at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: I want to know why the president would even go that route if he hasn't done anything wrong as he said repeatedly that there was no collusion and there was no obstruction of justice.
SANDERS: That's a question you'd have to ask the outside special counsel. I'm not an attorney, certainly couldn't address that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, the president is also not an attorney, but he has certainly addressed what he thinks about people that do take the Fifth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you seen what's going on in front of Congress? Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. Horrible. Horrible.
The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they're not prosecuted, I think it's disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, it is safe to say the president and White House already face serious questions about credibility, whether it's the Stormy Daniels timeline or issues surrounding the Mueller investigation.
The story is always changing. After Giuliani said the president did, indeed, reimburse Cohen for the hush money, Sarah Sanders says he was unaware of that fact until Giuliani said it on "Hannity". And the president said Giuliani was still on some sort of learning curve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Rudy knows it's a witch hunt. He started yesterday. He'll get his facts straight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, he's new. He's learning. [20:05:00] He'll get his facts straight. That was Friday.
This was Giuliani yesterday, Sunday, talking about the mixed messages about the Stormy Daniels case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Right now, I'm at the point where I'm learning and I can only -- I can't prove that, I can just say it's rumor. I can prove it's rumor, but I can't prove it's fact. My issue is getting up to speed of the facts here. But it could have been recently, could have been awhile back. Those are the facts that we're working on and that, you know, maybe in a little bit of dispute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Dispute? I can prove it's rumor? The facts we're still working on?
Now, I did not go to law school, but I'm pretty sure that is not how the law works, or facts, for that matter. One nice thing about facts is they just are what they are. They don't need to be worked on or written or rewritten. It's actually pretty easy for everyone to be on the same page if that page is a list of facts.
This White House, this president and this lawyer seem like they're not just not on the same page, the page got ripped out, dropped in a puddle, torn to shreds and now, barely legible pieces are scattered all over Washington.
But maybe we should cut them some slack. After all, it is still Rudy Giuliani's first day, except that it's not.
Now, to that new reporting tonight from "The Wall Street Journal" about how the president has been getting ready for a possible interview with Robert Mueller and when the legal team hopes to make that decision, Peter Nicholas of "The Wall Street Journal" joins me now.
Peter, thanks so much for being with us.
Rudy Giuliani told you that the president's legal team hopes to decide if the president should testify, they want to make that decision by May 17th. What did he tell you about what's factoring into that decision?
PETER NICHOLAS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, the May 17th is the one-year anniversary of the appointment of Bob Mueller and there's some skepticism and Giuliani talked about why this could be a risky move for the president. He's concerned that it could be -- he could be leading the president into a perjury trap, if he green lights something like this, worried about specific questions that Mueller might ask, and also worried about how the president -- his lawyers are worried about how the president might answer these questions. One thing that we learned in our reporting is that there's a concern
that Trump is a little too loquacious, he goes on too long, he goes off on tangents, and all this could invite more questions from Bob Mueller. So, there's some great skepticism on the part of the Trump legal team about whether to go forward with this.
BERMAN: So, Rudy Giuliani, in fact, told you that every day, they swing a little different, as he puts it, on whether the president should sit down with Robert Mueller, so, did he explain why they're going back and forth on this?
NICHOLAS: Yes, I think they see there's public relations value in the president agreeing to do this interview. That there's some expectation on the public's part if the president is saying that he's innocent, this is all witch hunt, that there's no obstruction, that there's no collusion, then why not go before the special prosecutor and forthrightly say those things?
So, they understand that, and they're weighing that, or balancing that, against the peril that any witness would face who is the subject of an investigation, going before the special counsel.
BERMAN: And Giuliani made clear to you that he thinks the safest course and the course he would prefer is for the president not to testify. Why does he think that?
NICHOLAS: Well, Giuliani is a former U.S. attorney. He's also a lawyer who has represented people in private practice. He said that he was pretty blunt about it, he said he always -- he never wanted his clients to testify, and as U.S. attorney, he felt that the witnesses who did testify, subjects of investigation, were walking into some peril, and he could exploit that and take advantage of that, as prosecutor.
So, he comes at this from a very skeptical place, where I think he is well aware of the pitfalls that this presents.
BERMAN: Yes, something interesting in our article. You reported on a practice session that President Trump's attorneys put him through. What did your sources tell you about that?
NICHOLAS: Well, yes. So they ran some sample questions by President Trump in the White House residence to see how he would do, and they made very little headway. They were there for about four hours, but they were repeatedly interrupted. So, national security advisers would come into the room, they want to talk to the president about North Korea, or Iran, the lawyers would have to leave the room, because they weren't -- they did the interview privy to that.
And then they would come back, they would try to resume the Q&A, and they found that the president was kind of, as I mentioned, long-winded in his answers, and they weren't able to cover very much ground. So, it was not a successful experiment, is what I'm told.
BERMAN: Peter Nicholas, fascinating article, great reporting. Thanks so much for being with us. NICHOLAS: Great to be with you.
BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, Jim Acosta at the White House and CNN Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger.
Jim, you know, has the White House responded to this idea of a May 17th decision?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, John. We've asked. They have not responded yet. I will tell you that earlier today, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, she was sort of reading from different talking points today. I think gone are the days where they're really going to speculate a whole lot on these legal troubles facing the president. She was essentially just referring us over and over again to the president's legal team.
But I did talk to a source close to these discussions recently, who said that the president's legal team is making a final push to make this determination one way or the other as to whether or not the president is going to sit down with Robert Mueller. This source I spoke with said the odds are around 50/50, and that Rudy Giuliani's comments obviously complicated matters and they are trying to work through that.
BERMAN: Gloria, what are you hearing from your sources?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there's once source who talked to my colleague and Jim's colleague, Pam Brown, who said they are looking forwards this May 17th deadline, about deciding whether he should or shouldn't testify. But this source said it's all fluid.
And my sources are telling me the reason this is fluid is because this league team right now is being run by two people -- the president of the United States and Rudy Giuliani -- who, as you pointed out earlier, is not readily read in on the legal case. Don't forget, he has a new lawyer coming in, Emmet Flood, who has to undergo all kinds of security clearance in order to deal with this case, he hasn't done that yet. You've got the Raskins who are coming into this case new.
And most of the attorneys believe the president should not testify. And I think they would agree with Rudy Giuliani on that, but they have this sense, watching this, watching it play out over the weekend and last week, is that Rudy Giuliani and the president are kind of freelancing here a little bit --
BERMAN: What would give you that idea?
BORGER: I don't know. And that every time they see it, they want to kind of pull their hair out, or at least pull Rudy Giuliani into a room with all of them, which is what I think they're going to try to do, and get on the same page.
They like his PR message, which is, you know, to try to discredit Mueller and the whole team and the investigation, but as to the specifics about what the president's going to do, and what the legal team is going to do, not so much.
BERMAN: And, Jim, what are you seeing in terms of tension from the legal team? We should say, tension is not. There's only been tension whatever legal team it seems the president has had.
ACOSTA: There are tensions inside the legal team. There was one person who was referring to this as an S-show -- I'm not going to use the full expletive there -- when describing Rudy Giuliani's performance last week. That obviously is a sign of some tensions inside the legal team.
I think somebody else used the term WTF. I will just use the abbreviated portion of that there.
But, John, there's also a frustration inside the White House press office. They feel like more and more they should just keep themselves walled off from questions about the Mueller investigation, because you saw what happened with Sarah Sanders last week, her own words came back to haunt her, and I think that's why you saw her earlier today really just over and over again almost robotically saying, I want to refer you back to the president's legal team. It makes you wonder whether, at some point, they're just going to have to put somebody else in that briefing room alongside Sarah Sanders to answer some of these questions, because that is going to become sort of a broken record, just to hear the White House spokesperson say that over and over again.
But it sounds like from what Gloria is saying and what Peter is saying over at "The Wall Street Journal" is that we are getting close to something. The question is whether or not a subpoena is issued, and at that point, you know, we could see this stretch on for months if this goes all the way to the Supreme Court. So, these questions, whether they're robotically answered or not, may continue for some time, John.
BORGER: You know, and I think the legal team would like to find a spokesperson, so, Sarah Sanders doesn't have to stand up there and do that. But it's hard to get a spokesperson, because that person knows they're going to have to hire a lawyer themselves if they were to become a spokesperson at this point.
So, it's a very difficult job, which nobody is actually running to fill.
BERMAN: Is Rudy Giuliani actually doing anything more than being a spokesperson? I'm having a hard time following his law efforts here.
BORGER: Well, you know, we're not in their meetings yet, because they probably haven't had many meetings yet. So, I think when they do all get together, we'll learn a little about that, but we do know that he and the president are on the same page. The question that I'm hearing is, how long will Rudy Giuliani last until the president decides he's getting a little too much publicity, maybe he's getting a little too out front on this one, and maybe he ought to cool it. BERMAN: He is the public face of this, that is for sure.
All right. Gloria Borger, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Joining me now, Jeffrey Toobin, Elizabeth Foley and David Gergen.
Mr. Toobin, I want to start with you here. Rudy Giuliani, by his own admission, still doesn't have his facts completely straight. He's sure about the rumors, but still getting up to speed on the facts, which he says are still in dispute. At the same time, he's saying to "The Wall Street Journal," they're going to have their decision by the 17th, at the same time, he's saying things about Michael Cohen.
Is any of this helpful to the president?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No. I mean, look, I think we can all acknowledge that Rudy Giuliani is making a fool of himself, because he doesn't know what he's doing, he doesn't know what he's talking about. He's just -- you know, he's talking about the hostages in North Korea, just things he shouldn't be talking about. And as you point out, he doesn't know the facts.
[20:15:02] But I do think we are heading for a resolution, which will include the departure of Rudolph Giuliani. He will -- they will make a decision about Trump's testimony and Giuliani will say, that's what I came here to do. Now, I'm leaving and that will be by popular demand, especially by the president of the United States.
BERMAN: You know, Elizabeth, Professor Foley, obviously, the president does have other lawyers besides Rudy Giuliani, but Giuliani is the face of it.
Is that a functional relationship, having the guy who may not be as up to speed on the law out there talking the most about the law?
ELIZABETH FOLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: Yes, I mean, it is always a good idea, when you have a complex legal situation like this, to have someone who is the sort of legal face of your legal team. And then beyond that public face, you have sort of a team of minions going about doing sort of ordinary lawyerly things. So, you know, time will tell whether Giuliani sort of settles into this public face role. I do think he sort of shot a little fast out of the cannon in the beginning. But we'll see.
I mean, otherwise, he's shown, you know, that he has a lot of sophistication and experience with the media, and that may prove to be worthwhile. He also obviously has experience as a federal prosecutor, so, that could be useful, too, especially if the subpoena that we're all speculating may come out eventually comes out of the Southern District of New York, rather than special counsel Mueller's office.
BERMAN: But on balance, up until this point, has he been helpful?
FOLEY: You know, I think there's pluses and minuses, that's really sort of outside of my wheelhouse. I think as far as public spokespeople go, he's very aggressive, but that may be intentional. BERMAN: But in terms of lead lawyering, which is supposed to be his
job here, that's another question.
David Gergen, "The Wall Street Journal" also reports that the president was only able to get through two questions during this informal four-hour practice session.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Whoa.
BERMAN: One of the reasons was because of national security interruptions, but also because of his loquaciousness. Which gets to an issue here, I mean, do you think, are there signs they're taking this quite seriously?
GERGEN: Wow, two questions in four hours. I mean, just think -- how many questions did we have from Mueller, something like 48? Can you imagine? It could be a couple of weeks they'd do that.
And I think -- I think in the end of the day, the president is going to have to answer questions under oath. How they get there, I do not know. Whether it's going to be, you know, going to voluntarily do it, whether it's going to be a subpoena, which is challenged by the White House and they lose in the Supreme Court, or whatever it is, ultimately, he's going to have to speak.
In the meantime, I think Rudy Giuliani's made this a circus. Rudy has many very good qualities. He was an excellent mayor of New York, as we all know. He can be -- he's a great combatant in some ways.
But he's gotten very loquacious on this. Everybody is speaking too much. He's turning it into a circus. And he's freelancing, which is the worst thing you can do in a serious complicated case.
You need people of good judgment, who are thoughtful and deliberative in this, because this is a game against a group of people led by Mueller who are very smart, they're very serious, and they do not create circuses. They know how to roll over circuses. They close down circuses.
BERMAN: Go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Berman, there's a point to be made here that the loquaciousness that we're -- is actually helpful to the president.
TOOBIN: Not hurtful. Because this is -- this is going to have a time limit. There is no question this interview will be three hours, four hours, five hours, it will be some time limit.
And if the president is just going to ramble for the whole time, that's to his advantage. And there will not be a judge there, if this is a grand jury type proceeding. So, you know, there's method to the madness, if the president just wants to say, as he is wont to, there was no collusion, no obstruction of justice, he says it 17 different ways and doesn't address the actual questions in front of him, that could very much work to his advantage and run out the clock.
BERMAN: It's a filibuster and it is hard to tell the president of the United States to be quiet.
BERMAN: You do not know if a prosecutor would do that.
David, go ahead.
GERGEN: I just -- Jeffrey's taught about this a lot, he knows more about this than I do, but I just cannot imagine that Mueller is going to sit there and let him filibuster for four hours and walk away without having to answer any real questions. I mean, it defeats the whole purpose of it, and I think Mueller will have a perfectly good case if he answers three questions over the course of three or four hours. Yet, this is totally evasive and I think he will go after him.
BERMAN: All right, guys, go nowhere. You're all going to be back after we take a break.
Also ahead, the latest from Hawaii where the lava is still flowing four days after a volcano erupted on the big island. We're going to have a live update when 360 continues.
[20:23:42] BERMAN: As we heard before the break, the president's lawyers in the Russia investigation are hoping to decide whether he should testify by the one-year anniversary of the appointment of Robert Mueller. Believe it or not, that's just in ten days.
This is new reporting tonight in "The Wall Street Journal" which says in a four-hour practice session, the lawyers were only able to get through two questions with the president.
Back now with Jeffrey Toobin, Elizabeth Foley and David Gergen.
Professor Foley, I want to start with you, because Rudy Giuliani is saying it's basically settled law that the president does not have to comply with a subpoena. Now, it's an open legal question but it's certainly not settled law, is it?
FOLEY: No, I don't think it's settled law. I do think there's a good argument to be made, however, that a president being served with a subpoena to testify in a pending criminal case probably has plenty of leverage to defy that subpoena. And ultimately, I suspect either a subpoena will not be issued, or if it is, it will simply be used as leverage to work something out with the president to sit down and define the parameters of an interview.
FOLEY: And what those parameters would be, ultimately, who knows? But think about it, you know, you can't really enforce the subpoena against a sitting president of the United States. There's no court in the country that would ultimately hold the president in contempt and threaten to imprison him. There have been two OLC opinions that say a president can't be indicted because of the disruption of the presidency, and I think the same argument would hold true with a subpoena.
[20:25:08] BERMAN: Now, but the subpoena could be argued --
TOOBIN: In 1997, the Supreme Court said that Bill Clinton had to give a civil deposition in a civil case, the Paula Jones case. So, civil cases are lower in priority, always, than grand jury subpoenas.
I think this is a pretty easy legal issue, that he will be required to testify if --
FOLEY: This is not a civil case, though.
FOLEY: This is a criminal grand jury.
TOOBIN: It's a grand jury subpoena.
BERMAN: Hang on, David, because in a normal universe, the issue here would actually also be political, that there -- no politician would want to sit and deal with the potential embarrassment of having the Supreme Court having to weigh in on this, but we may be in different times here. The president, this president, might be willing to deal with just that.
GERGEN: Well, that's true. But I was there in 1974, working in the White House, when the Supreme Court ruled, and as I recall, it was unanimous. President Nixon had to answer a subpoena to turn over documents, and of course, those were the tapes that sank him.
I cannot understand why you can have a subpoena that is enforceable against a president for documents and why then a subpoena against him to testify in person, why they're so different. It seems to me they're quite close together in their nature, and I would be interested in the response from Jeffrey, especially.
BERMAN: Elizabeth, to you quickly, and then Jeffrey.
FOLEY: Yes, the rationale is subpoena duces tecum which is for production of document is time consuming, but not time consuming in terms of taking the president personally away from the production of those documents, whereas a subpoena ad testificandum does require extensive preparation. I know no good criminal defense attorney who wouldn't want a lot of hours with any client who was going to appear before a grand jury, to give testimony.
So, the idea is that you really have to, if you're a court, sort of balance the need for the information against the burden on the presidency, qua presidency, and subpoena ad testificandum to testify would take away the president from his duties for a good deal number of more hours than a subpoena duces tecum would be.
So, there would have to be some showing that there is some need to get this information from the president and there's no other way to get that information.
TOOBIN: Well, I just think that's -- I mean, yes, it's true there would have to be some showing, but if the Supreme Court said the president has to testify in a civil case, which is not nearly as important as a grand jury proceeding, as they did in the Paula Jones case, why wouldn't they say he had to testify in a grand jury proceeding? I just think it's an easy legal issue.
BERMAN: So, Jeff, let me move onto something else here, because Rudy Giuliani just spoke to "Politico", he's talking to a lot of different outlets, and he spoke about the idea that he should stop speaking on TV.
This is what he said. He said, quote: If I'm not up to it, I don't know who is, he told "Politico". He said, I know the Justice Department better than just about anyone.
So, first of all, does that answer make sense to you? And second, Jeffrey, you said earlier, you think the likely outcome is that they work out some kind of deal that Rudy Giuliani runs off, or walks off or rides off, into the sunset. Is that something you're piecing together, or do you have any reporting on that?
TOOBIN: Absolutely. I think that's right. I mean, this is an embarrassment. I mean, and, you know, to have the president, his client, saying -- well, you know, this is sort of part of the Rudy Giuliani continuing education program, I mean, it's embarrassing, it's ridiculous.
And Donald Trump knows when people are doing well on television and when they're not. And Giuliani isn't. Look, I think there is a simple solution for Donald Trump, that eliminates all these legal issues and legal complexities, and that's simply that he takes the Fifth. You know, it will be a bad day, the people will play those tapes that you played earlier, Berman, and it will be -- it would be embarrassing.
But Donald Trump has been in 40 percent in the polls since the day he was elected. He's not going to go down if he takes the Fifth. And that just eliminates this whole controversy and ends the whole thing --
BERMAN: David, quickly, on that political point, can he afford politically to take the Fifth?
GERGEN: It's good legal advice, it's terrible political advice. I just think it would be a disaster for him to take the Fifth. 2
BERMAN: Professor? FOLEY: There will be no invocation of the Fifth Amendment. You have
to realize that first of all there has to be a crime that's investigated. We don't even know what crime Mueller would be investigating the president for --
TOOBIN: Obstruction of justice.
GERGEN: Obstruction of justice.
FOLEY: Well, I talked about obstruction many, many times. There's a reason why this is not obstruction of justice. There's no pending proceeding when he did fire James Comey. The statutes require a pending proceeding.
There was no pending proceeding before Congress or the judicial branch, and it's that simple, because the president has plenary constitutional authority -
BERMAN: Let me --
FOLEY: -- to fire the FBI director.
BERMAN: Let me exercise my First Amendment rights as I thank you, wanted all for joining us this evening, I appreciate it.
All right, First Lady Melania Trump steps into the spotlight on her own to unveil her agenda to help America's children. Stay with us.
BERMAN: This afternoon, almost 16 months into the Trump presidency, Melania Trump unveils her first initiative as first lady called "Be Best". Her campaign focuses on child's well-being fighting opioid abuse and fighting cyberbullying.
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF UNITED STATES: My hope is that together, we can be best at helping children and families find effective ways to educate themselves and support each other. I'm asking you all to join me in providing support and guidance to our children, so that we can make a real difference. How we raise and educate our children on variety of topics will provide the blue print for the next generation.
[20:35:05] Together, let's encourage children to dream big, think big and do all they can to be best in everything they do.
BERMAN: The President joined the First Lady on stage after her speech. The event comes a day after the "Washington Post" publish a story about the couple titled "Inside Melania Trump's Complicated White House Life: Separate Schedule, Different Priorities".
Joining me now is Mary Jordan, one of the reporters sharing the by line on that story. Also with us Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio. Mary, let me start with you. You report the President and the First Lady lead very separate lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. What more can you tell us?
MARY JORDAN, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think it's striking that there is basically a de facto wall between the west wing and the Oval Office where the President is and the east wing where she has her office. We talked to all kinds of people and they just say that, you know, normally there is a more give and take. They just have a very separate lives. And why does it matter? I mean I think because right now that the headlines are dominated by two women that said they had an affair with him. Her support if he runs again as he said he would in 2020, is going to matter. And so that's why people are looking at how the Trumps are getting along.
BERMAN: Michael, a new poll out today shows that Melania poll numbers are on the rise. And far higher than the President, we know the President plays basically essentially the polls and to Mary's "Washington Post" Story, they mentioned that he particularly fixates on Melania's numbers. In your experience, what kind of impact with her rising popularity have on the President?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the President has a record in his past of actually being jealous of his wife when she gets more attention. This was the case when he was married to Ivana Trump and I think it was the case when he was married to Marla Maples. He doesn't like to lose at anything to anyone including his wife and here we have a case where one person in the couple is the one that wives turn to their husbands and say if you ever do anything like that I'll kill you. And the other person is regarded as dignified and kind and quite decent.
So, I would expect that her numbers will continue to rise, and it will be a problem for the President.
BERMAN: Mary, regarding the First Lady's initiative announced today, particularly the cyberbullying part. You write that she had been advised by people in the White House to champion another cause, any other cause and yet she still persisted with this one.
JORDAN: Well, clearly she has an independent streak and it is noticeable that as we see more of her, remember she was pretty much silent for the entire first year. We just recently have seen her more in the last few weeks than we have in the entire first year. And when she is raising her profile, she is almost always doing it by being the anti Trump. She is the least like all the Trumps of the Trumps.
You know, he is a big extrovert. She likes small crowds. You know, he -- she is talking about today in the Rose Garden about kindness and not being mean online. And of course he is famous for his taunts and insults via Twitter. It's a very interesting first couple and there's going to be more interesting because she has promised that we're going to see more of Melania Trump in the coming months.
BERMAN: I mean it's an initiative they really -- everyone looking get behind. Michael, do you think this is a way for Melania to send a message to the audience of one? I mean the President was sitting right in the front row for the speech?
D'ANTONIO: Well, so many people have used their public appearances to address that audience of one, namely the President. And I'm sure that the First Lady was doing that in part.
Now, we shouldn't doubt that she has a sincere interest in the issues that she raised, the opioid crisis and cyber bullying in particular she has a young son who's been thrust on the public stage through now cause of his own. And he has to cope with being challenged as a young person. So she must have empathy for kids, but she sure is sending a message to the President that she is opposed to the kind of trolling and bullying and harassing that he does online. And make no mistake about it, when you're the President and you're engaged online in a debate with someone, you're always the bully, you're not the victim, because you have the power. He is the most powerful person on earth.
BERMAN: Michael D'Antonio, Mary Jordan, thanks so much for being with us. Mary, thanks so much for your reporting.
Just ahead it sounds as if it is straight out of a spy novel and a bad one. Did a private intelligence firm called Black Cube try ti target former Obama administration officials in order to undermine the Iran nuclear deal? I'll speak with one of those possibly targeted.
[20:43:41] BERMAN: President Trump says he will reveal his decision on the Iran nuclear deal tomorrow afternoon in an announcement.
Meantime, the "New Yorker" is reporting tonight that is really intelligence firm called Black Cube has been working to undermine the Iran nuclear deal by trying to comply damaging personal information about two key Obama administration officials who were instrumental in fashioning the deal in the first place. The magazine is all up on reporting by two British newspaper regarding the observer, saying Trump administration officials were behind accusations against the officials published mostly in the ring wing press.
One of those officials is Colin Kahl, who worked as deputy assistant to President Obama as well as an adviser to former Vice President Biden and was involved in the Iran nuclear deal, he joins me now.
So Colin, can you walk us through exactly what happened. Because from what I understand, you were a target of this operation through some kind of a company trying to get at you through your wife?
COLIN KAHL, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes, it's very odd. So, let's back up just a bit. About a week ago, I was contacted by reporters from the "Observer" and "Guardian", who said than in the course of their investigation into Cambridge Analytica, they'd come across information suggesting that Trump aides had hired an Israeli intel firm to dig up dirt on me and Ben Rhodes an effort to discredit the Iran deal and then they just ask, had you ever heard of this before? And I responded no. I've never heard about this before.
[20:45:03] And then a couple of days later, the "Guardian" story came out. And when my wife read that story and the story alleges that this firm was hired last May, so we're talking May of 2017. It triggered kind of a creepy memory that my wife had which was -- that she had been approached by -- well supposedly a woman, a persona from a company called Rueben Capital Partners which claimed to be a private equity firm that made kind of socially responsible investments.
And my wife who is mostly a stay at home mom was volunteering at my daughter's elementary school, public chartered school in Washington D.C. and the e-mail pitch was, you know, your school is great. We'd love to talk to you about maybe making investments in your school. This all sounded a little implausible and weird. So my wife reached out to some friends in the finance world and the education world, nobody seemed to think this was on the level.
So, my wife went back to this persona and tried to get them to talk to somebody else on the -- at the school or somebody else on the committee. And they kept insisting that they wanted to talk to my wife, at which point we concluded it might be, you know, an intelligence entities or some phishing scam or something and we just discontinued that conversation. And that conversation went from May 26th, that was the first e-mail through June 15. So, in the same time frame that this happened.
BERMAN: So -- at this point, we should point it, the Black Cube has denied involvement and that no connection with the White House has been made but, and this is a big but, you say again, the timing of comments made by Trump officials tells you something.
KAHL: Yes. I mean, first thing, you're watching -- the folks watching should know that the Black Cube denial is not really a denial. They basically just said, they don't talk about who hires them. But, they -- you know, they weren't hire by the Trump administration. What is weird, what kind of got my spider sense tingling was that last spring a number of Trump aides started a kind of public smear campaign to try to blame the entire, you know, what they thought was this deep state conspiracy on the Ben Rhodes column called "Nexus". Just happened to coincide exactly at the same time, that this Black Cube firm was hired and coincidentally, it also happened around the same time as the President's trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel.
BERMAN: You know, if you are in fact in the middle of this, and if you weren't in fact the target. I mean how does it feel to be in the center of this all?
KAHL: Well, I think it generally it feels creepy. I mean, look, when you're a government official, you expect intelligence entities to spy on you. I mean it doesn't feel good, but that's what intelligence entities do. When you're a former government official it's much weirder. It also is, you know, especially creepy if it's a private firm and even doubly so if they're coming at you through your family.
I mean, let's keep in mind for your viewers, that they came at me through my wife doing volunteer work at my six-year-old daughter's public elementary school in Washington D.C., that's pretty scummy. And that may happen in the business world, it doesn't happen in my world. And if -- then look, I have no idea, I have no evidence that this has any relationship to the Trump White House, you know, the "Guardian" alleged that that was the case. I have no idea if that is true. But if there is any connection obviously to the White House, then it takes a lot of particularly authoritarian cast to it.
BERMAN: Do you suspect that they were involved?
KAHL: I don't know. But I hope people ask them the question because maybe it was just a coincidence that the exact same two people which seemed to be the obsession of a handful of senior aides to the President at the very same time that this firm was hired to dig up dirt on those two people, maybe it is just a coincidence, but it's suspicious enough that I think people need to be asking questions.
BERMAN: Colin Kahl, thanks so much for being with us.
BERMAN: Some breaking news tonight, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling for the resignation of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, this after four women accused the Attorney General of violence against them. The accusations of breaking news tonight in the "New Yorker", two of the women spoke on the record, saying Schneiderman had hit and choked them both. Both sought medical attention because of the alleged abuse.
A statement on Twitter, Attorney General Schneiderman says he has engaged in what he calls role playing, but he claims that he is not assaulted anyone. Schneiderman, was a vocal proponent of the MeToo movement have brought legal action against Harvey Weinstein in New York. Schneiderman also casted himself as a prominent opponent to President Trump. Again, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo calling on Schneiderman resign tonight.
Up next, incredible video, molten lava pouring in a neighborhood and releasing dangerous fumes into the air. The latest on the volcanic eruption Hawaii when 360 continues.
[20:53:23] BERMAN: On Hawaii's Big Island, the danger is far from over from an erupting volcano. 35 structures including 26 homes destroyed. And authorities are pleaing with people to please stay away from the danger zone. More now from CNN's Stephanie Elam.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rivers of smoldering lava threatening Hawaii's Big Island. The red hot magma spewing up through fissures that have emerged since the eruption of the Kilauea Volcano has ravaged roads and destroyed dozens of structures.
Watch this time lapse shows the all-consuming flow of the lava as it slowly creeps across a road engulfing a parked car, leaving a smoky black trail in its wake. More lava spilling through neighborhoods, turning lush green island vegetation to walls of blackened rock. At least 1,700 people in Leilani Estates and Linapuni Gardens have had to evacuate.
(on-camera): Tell me what it was like when you first saw lava coming out right by your house.
STEVE GEBBIE, RESIDENT: It was -- it's bionic, really orange. The highest splatter I saw, personally, was about 60 feet tall. Which is pretty big.
ELAM (voice-over): Add to that potentially deadly volcanic gases. The eruptions have released high levels of sulfur dioxide into the air. And 2then there are the Big Island earthquakes. More than 1,300 in the last week, alone. From a helicopter, we can see where all of this began and the destruction is massive.
[20:55:06] To the south, the Puu Oo vent of Kilauea collapsed.
SEAN REGEHR, PILOT, PARADISE HELICOPTER: So, that used to be almost flat up tops, two craters up there, it almost collapsed into one big hole.
ELAM (voice-over): Some residents in Leilani Estates have been allowed to return temporarily to check on their homes, but the threat and the uncertainty remain.
DEBBIE AGBAYANI, RESIDENT: Just watching everybody come out of there with all their things and, it's sad, it's just so sad.
BERMAN: And Stephanie Elam joins us now from the Big Island. You can see the scene behind her. Stephanie, you've actually been close to this toxic sulfur dioxide gas, as been coming out of the volcano. What's that like?
ELAM: John, there's nothing that really prepares you for it. I was shocked by not just the smell of the gas when the wind would change and hit you. It takes your breath away. But also the thundering, pounding sound of the lava erupting from the earth, along with that gas, you feel it in your chest. And as you heard, the man that we interviewed in the piece say, Steve Gebbie say, when it's coming out, the orange is so intense, it almost looks fake. Nothing prepares your eyes for what you're seeing. And to know how hot that's burning and the danger that it poses for the people living in these communities, John.
BERMAN: Pictures are simply stunning. Stephanie Elam, please stay safe. Thanks so much for being with us.
Up next, our latest on the breaking news from the White House, the "Wall Street Journal" reporting the President's lawyers hope to decide within days if he should testify in the Mueller investigation. And according to the "Wall Street Journal" a Q&A practice session did not go as planned.
The details when we continue.