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Report: Trump Suggest Legal Action Against Mueller's Team; Giuliani Says Trump Could Defy Subpoena to Testify, Officials Preparing Plan B CIA Pick; Trump Not Expected to Be Invited to McCain's Funeral. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 7, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hi there, I'm Brianna Keilar in for Brooke Baldwin and we're monitoring breaking developments on a trio of major stories from the nation's capital.

Happening now, CIA director nominee, Gina Haspel is on Capitol Hill just ahead of what is expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing on Wednesday. And then in about an hour, Melania Trump is going to speak at her first rose garden event. She will be establishing a formal platform 16 months after becoming first lady. And in just moments the White House briefing is set to begin. As the president digs deeper into discrediting the Russia investigation.

Even suggesting legal action against people working for the man leading the probe Robert Mueller. The president tweeting this today he said, the 13 angry Democrats in charge of the Russian witch hunt are starting to find out there is a court system in place that actually protects people from injustice. And just wait until the courts get to see your unrevealed conflicts of interest. And he tweeted the Russia witch hunt is rapidly losing credibility. House Intelligence Committee found no collusion, coordination or anything else with Russia, so now the probe says what else is there, how about obstruction for a made up phony crime? There is no O. It is called fighting back.

I want to turn now to CNN chief White House Jim Acosta as he is there in the briefing room awaiting Sarah Sanders. The president is not expected to have any public appearances today, so this is really the first chance to hear from the White House about these 13 angry Democrats as the president put it and their conflicts of interest. What are we expecting and just set us straight on some of what the president has said.

JIM ACOSTA, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'll do my best to do my best to set you straight on what the president has said, That is a difficult task sometimes as you know. But when the president was tweeting earlier this morning, we believe that he was tweeting in reference to the 13 angry Democrats people that apparently work for the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But that is obviously a question Sarah Sanders will be asked here at the upcoming briefing in a few moments.

The other issue that she will be dealing with obviously is the fallout from the comments, series of comments, from the former New York Mayor and now Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani over the weekend. He tried to clean up some of the previous comments that were I guess not really something the president wanted to hear. Over the weekend, Rudy Giuliani spoke on the ABC "This Week" program and tried to clarify some of his comments that he made last week when he confused everybody about these reimbursements to Michael Cohen for the payoff to Stormy Daniels. Of course, the president came out on Friday and said that Rudy Giuliani is trying to get his facts straight, that his heart is in the right place, so on.

The question will be put I suppose to Sarah Sanders as to what exactly is going on with the information coming out of this White House, coming out of the Trump legal team when it comes to the Stormy Daniels case. That is something that Sarah Sanders struggled with last week. We all asked her questions about why is it that we can't rely on the information coming out of the White House and she had been contradicted herself by Rudy Giuliani because she had said that the president had not reimbursed Michael Cohen and then of course Rudy Giuliani said otherwise. And at take that press briefing last week, Sarah Sanders used those infamous words which will follow her I suppose for some time that she tries to give the best information that she has. That obviously struck a lot of people as not exactly telling the truth, but just telling the truth as she knew it at that time.

So I suppose that will be an issue moving forward. But as you were mentioning, the nomination of Gina Haspel, that is also a problem for this White House that they are trying to get out of over the weekend it was reported that Gina Haspel had even talked about perhaps withdrawing her nomination for CIA director. There are obviously mounting questions up on Capitol Hill as to what her involvement was during the Bush administration when it comes to the enhanced interrogation techniques that were used after 9/11 during the Bush administration, what kind of knowledge did she have of those techniques, and because so many people think that those techniques constitute torture, you know, there are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle here who wonder whether she is the right person to lead the central intelligence agency.

Of course, you saw the tweet from the president saying that he would like to see her confirmed. And the White House I talked to a senior official earlier this morning who said no, they are not backing off Gina Haspel, they do want to see her as the next CIA director. But of course, that is something that will be asked about here in this briefing as well.

[14:05:00] Because when these questions are asked, you've been in the room before, when the questions are asked about nominees, it is listened to very closely what a White House press secretary has to say, and we'll be looking for any kind of clues in her comments when she comes out to the podium on that as well.

KEILAR: Jim Acosta, we'll check back in with you. Thank you so much. And as we wait for the White House briefing to begin any moment, take a listen to what Rudy Giuliani said about the president possibly pleading the fifth amendment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you confident that the president will not take the fifth in this case?

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: 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 that he'd be a fool to testify, I've got a client who wants to testify, please, don't -- he said it yesterday. And jay and I said to ourselves, my goodness, I hope we get a chance to tell him the risk that he is taking.


KEILAR: Dana Bash, it seems like this is what Sarah Sanders has been preoccupied with now for the last few days is cleaning up after Rudy Giuliani.

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That and potentially trying to figure out how to deal with a CIA director nominee in trouble and then you can keep going down the list. But obviously Rudy Giuliani is the most out there. It is the most public. And it is giving her clearly the most heartburn particularly after the briefing that she gave last week where she just surrendered and said look, I'm doing the best I can with the information that I have. I spoke with Giuliani yesterday after he met with the president and what he said to me among other things was that, you know, the president and I have agreed I'll focus on the legal issue, he will focus on issues like North Korea and Iran and so forth. And then this morning the president sent no fewer than four tweets about Russia. So, it is impossible for Sarah Sanders to be able to control even if she believes that there is an agreement for the president to not talk about this anymore. She knows better than for that to happen.

KEILAR: He also suggested that Michael Cohen could have paid off other women if necessary. I would not consider that particularly helpful if I'm president Trump. What do you think?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean that is just opening up so many other inquiries that are potentially problematic for the president. And that is what Rudy Giuliani has been doing, every time he talks, the story shifts a bit more and it opens up new questions. And when you have people like Stormy Daniels' lawyer and all these other things, it is fodder for people for be raising new questions that could pull the president back into other legal battles. And so, the fact that the president continues to support him at this point is remarkable given that he is kind of creating more problems in an arena in which they were trying to really shut things down in order to avoid this additional scrutiny.

KEILAR: Now, I want to ask you, Josh, because as we do look at Sarah Sanders being preoccupied with all of these questions about Gina Haspel, is she going to be confirmed by the senate, it's going to focus on obviously on her background when it comes to enhanced interrogation techniques. She saw very clearly that this would be an issue and there were a number of people including Sarah Sanders who were part of this a group from the White House who went to Langley to convince her not to pull out. What did you make of that?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Just a recognition that the White House didn't want to suffer another major failed nomination at this point. It is a huge political problem for them. They think that they can push Haspel over the edge. It is hard to stop a nominee with no filibuster. She's facing two big hurdles, one is what did she do. The senator's requests for information from the CIA have not been met.

They have been pressing for details. How do we know what we think about her record if we don't know what her record is?

The second is what she is going to be asked at her hearing. Would you do it again? Maybe it was legal then, maybe she was following orders, whatever she wants to say about that period in her life. What if President Trump orders her to do something that is controversial or even against the current law. What would her reaction be? And that is the answer that a lot of senators will want to know.

KEILAR: And part of this has to do with what her role was in protecting other agents from engaging in enhanced interrogation techniques at a time when it was questionable. Right?

ROGIN: That is exactly right. And the problem here is that we have a president who often not only is not aware of the current regulations, who has supported enhanced interrogation techniques and even torture throughout the campaign on his twitter feed. And she will be in the position of telling the president of the United States no, we can't do this, it is against the law. And until she comes out and publicly says that that is exactly what she'll do, a lot of people won't be comfortable with her heading the agency.

[14:10:00] KEILAR: And what do you think about the fact that as Gina Haspel goes into what will be a very contentious confirmation hearing, there is already a plan B and that would be the deputy DNI Susan Gordon, her name out there at this point. How unusual is it for -- to be proceeding with a confirmation hearing and have a plan b? I mean we always know sometimes they go to the plan B, but a lot of times that is not what the confirmation is actually going to go ahead with plan A.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I think the last time I can remember anything being this unorganized was with Harriet Miers Supreme Court potential nomination during the George W. Bush administration where everyone was like no, no, no, you can't nominate her to the Supreme Court and they had to kind of make a U-turn.

But it is clear that this administration has had difficulty navigating the nomination process and I think that part of the reason that they like the idea of her being the first woman and we all know that President Trump likes the idea of torture. He bragged about to Josh's point along the campaign trail. And it is part of his tough guy persona. During the Obama administration, some perceived the United States as becoming off, leading from behind, so they like the tough guy persona that Trump was bringing in. And during the campaign, a lot of us expressed concern about, well, wait a minute, torture is not legal. That was also something that he and John McCain bumped heads on as

Republicans over that issue. I don't think Trump cares. I think he sees it as an asset and if he some is prepared during the confirmation hearings, I think they are prepared to back her on that part of it because he sees that as a political win that people, the American people will say we need to be tough with terrorists. She is not used to being an appointee, so I think they are concerned that she can make it through the hearings.

KEILAR: All right. We'll have you stand by. We have a lot more to talk about as we expect the briefing to begin any moment. And as we await that, new reported allegations surfacing that perhaps alleged spies or a private sector entity hired private spies to get dirt on Obama officials in efforts to undermine the Iran nuclear deal. We'll discuss that. And speaking of, the president accusing John Kerry of illegal shadow diplomacy after it is revealed that the former secretary of state has been talking with Iranians and U.S. allies behind the scenes. We'll hear Kerry's response to that. And Senator John McCain as he fights brain cancer reportedly wants two of his fiercest former opponents to eulogize him and he does not want the sitting president there.


KEILAR: We are awaiting the White House press briefing set to begin here at any moment. Running a little late which is not unusual. So, we are going to keep an eye on the podium and as soon as Sarah Sanders walks up to it, we'll bring that to you live. In the meantime, I want to talk again with my panel here. And a topic that may actually come up, and that is Senator John McCain battling brain cancer in Arizona. He is now reportedly telling friends and family that he does not want president Trump at his funeral. Those close to him have imparted in fact to the White House that he does not want the president at his funeral. The "New York times" quoting the former vice president Joe Biden saying McCain is concerned above all about the state of the country. And our panel back with us now to discuss this. Can we just talk about how unprecedented it would be for John McCain as he clearly is battling this illness and facing mortality and thinking about his funeral and those close to him are to not have the sitting president of his own party or really any party?

BASH: Yes, if you take a step back and look at what John McCain has -- part of what he has stood for that is in his soul which is country and duty and honor and protocol and doing what is right for the country, in a vacuum not having a sitting president at your funeral when a lot of other dignitaries and former presidents are didn't seem right. On the flip side, consider this. That he apparently is going to have the two people who prevented him from fulfilling his life long dream of being president, George W. Bush who beat him in the primary in 2000, Barack Obama who beat him in the general election 2008, to be the one to eulogize him. And so that --

KEILAR: And there was really bad blood between him and George W. Bush.

BASH: Really bad blood. And there wasn't the warmest and fuzziest of feelings with him and Barack Obama at the beginning after Obama became president either.

[14:20:00] But he forged working relationships with both of them. And the symbol clearly that he and his family want to put out there is what he has stood for in addition to duty, honor, country, which is work together, compromise, do what is right for the country. And put human rights and the ideals of democracy as he believes these two presidents have done ahead of everything else and that is what he wants the stamp on his legacy to be.

KEILAR: He and those close to him clearly do not feel that President Trump factors into any of that in a productive way. I want to take a look at the moment that McCain defied President Trump, that he defied Republicans and he voted against the Obamacare repeal bill. Actually, we don't have that. But you'll remember this is the moment, the thumb down. He said no. And that is something that -- that is something that the president even this past weekend did not let him live down. Actually, we don't have that. But you'll rather this is the moment, the thumb down. He said no. And that is something that -- that is something that the president even this past weekend did not let him live down.

DEMIRJIAN: No, the president does not let bygones be bygones very well and does not seem to have the -- is not giving McCain is pass on that even though he is in the health situation that he is. McCain has defied the president on that vote on the health care bill, he defied him by pushing through you a health care package that up ended everything the president was trying to do, he called him out on his stance on Russian interference and sanctions. McCain doesn't pull punches with any president really and the fact that Trump is the president of his own party, you know, hasn't deterred him at all. And Trump does not take kindly to that sort of thing and does that seem to be inclined to take more kindly because McCain is facing mortality.

ROGIN: I think all of that is correct, but if you talk to the people around McCain, they will always say the same thing, he is not against Trump. He is standing up for principles that he believes he has fought for his entire life from before he was a senator when he was in the military and his book will come out May 22. And whether or not he is around to release it, that will stand as his last word. And they are about principles, bipartisan, compromise. The way Washington was supposed to work. Maybe it did work in a way, the way that it doesn't work now. He says I believe in a separation of powers, a press free to report and free to infuriate politicians including me as they do. That is about Trump, but it doesn't say Trump, right? He is arguing for immigration, he is arguing for compromise, he is arguing for an elevation of country above politics. So, it is a positive message, not a negative one. And that's why he doesn't want Trump there because Trump is always negative.

BASH: But even though the president has been very harsh on McCain and vice versa, I don't believe that it is personal that Trump apparently is not going. Some of it is. But really, he believes in exactly the opposite of everything that John McCain has built his life to stand for.

KEILAR: You can't blame John McCain for not making it personal especially when you've seen how some of his family members, I think of Meghan McCain and how she has responded.

SETMAYER: John McCain has always been the maverick. And as his life is coming to an end, he is inviting Presidents bush and Obama to eulogize him, still a maverick move. And I think that he recognizes, he looks at what Donald Trump is doing and the fact that he should -- we should be concerned about the fact that Democratic norms, ideals and institutions are really being challenged in ways that we haven't seen I don't think ever in this country. And John McCain recognizes that. So, I think the idea of civility on top of the bipartisanship and compromise and trying to accomplish legislative goals for the good of the country is something that we're desperately missing because it becomes the Trump show every day with all of the days on and all of the things that are going on. And I think that John McCain rightfully is trying to leave a legacy of civility and bipartisan because we need to get back to that. The course we're on is unsustainable. And the fact that Donald Trump personally insulted John McCain's record for captured is pretty much what started this and I wouldn't blame John McCain's family for not wanting Donald Trump there, for someone who basically had bone spurs, didn't serve and had the audacity to go after a war hero however you feel about John McCain's policies. He spent years in a Vietnamese prison.

[14:25:00] KEILAR: He said the heroes are the ones not captured. An important to note that John McCain actually resisted an early release and that was something that so many of his comrades were so -- they were so important for them as they weathered that time.

SETMAYER: Real courage.

KEILAR: All right. I'm going to have you stay with me. We are waiting for two live events. The White House briefing which we swear it was supposed to happen and it is going to happen any moment, it is still on. And then also Melania Trump will deliver one of her biggest speeches since taking office and we'll bring that to you live as well.


KEILAR: And we're keeping our eye on that White House briefing room as we await the briefing, it was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. we are hoping that it begins any moment, so we can bring it to you live. We see a little movement there, so we'll keep an eye. This going on as the president considers pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. There are new reports that an Israeli private intelligence agency was hired to get dirt on Obama officials who crafted the agreement in an effort to undermine that agreement. Jim Sciutto is our chief national security correspondent. It is unclear who hired this agency. It is reported that it was a private sector client who had interests in what happened. The observer is raising the possibility that there are closer ties to the president. What is going on?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Black cube, the private intelligence firm, has denied this to CNN and it is not clear that there is a direct tie to the Trump administration. I spoke to one of the apparent targets of this campaign, his name is Colin Kahl, and he along with Ben Rhodes former Obama administration officials, he did not know anything, Colin Kahl, of this effort until reporters called him last week. But when it happened, his wife and he started to recall some strange contacts that they got in May of last year. His wife, it is interesting, it was someone claiming to be with a financial firm in the U.K. that wanted to make a donation, an investment in their child's public school. His wife confused as to why --