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President Trump Set to Announce Iran Nuclear Deal Decision; Melania Trump Unveils Agenda; Interview With California Congressman Ted Lieu; Reports: Israel Intel Firm Dug Up Dirt on Obama Officials to Discredit Iran Nuke Deal; Volcano Spewing Lava and Toxic Gas, Triggering Quakes. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 7, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A rare speech by the first lady, as she unveils her official platform 16 months into the Trump presidency. Did her husband try to upstage her with a tweet?
And rivers of lava. Remarkable new images of the unfolding disaster in Hawaii, where molten rock from a volcano has destroyed dozens of homes. How long will the eruption last?
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Pleading the Fifth Amendment, refusing a subpoena, Rudy Giuliani suggests his client could do either as the Russia investigation closes in on President Trump. Giuliani's efforts at damage control after his disastrous debut as the president's new lawyer are creating even more problems, though, for the White House.
We will talk about that, much more with Congressman Ted Lieu of the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees.
And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the White House insists Giuliani is adding value to the Trump legal team.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
The White House said that today, that Rudy Giuliani is adding value to the Trump legal team. That is despite the fact that the president said last week that Giuliani did not have his facts straight. The White House, they were shying away from questions today about the president's legal troubles, whether they be about the Stormy Daniels case or the Russia investigation.
Aides to the president, you could tell this just by watching them today, Wolf, they have gotten burned in the past with statements that later turned out to be true. Today, they were being much more careful with their words. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ACOSTA (voice-over): The only scheduled appearance of President Trump, an embrace with the first lady, as she unveiled a campaign aimed at the nation's children.
That moment came less than an hour after the White House press secretary stated cautiously that she's not aware of any other hush money to women alleging affairs with the president.
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.
ACOSTA: That question was prompted by comments made by the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who tried to do some damage control over the weekend after he revealed Mr. Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen was reimbursed for a payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels, money Giuliani insisted did not violate campaign laws.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: It was not a campaign contribution, because it would have been done anyway. This is the kind of thing that I have settled for celebrities and famous people.
ACOSTA: On the Russia investigation, Giuliani argued the president has the right to refuse a subpoena to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller.
GIULIANI: We don't have to. He's the president of the United States. We can assert the same privilege as other presidents have.
ACOSTA: Asked whether the White House agrees, Sanders dodged the question.
(on camera): Does the president believe it is within his executive powers to reject a subpoena from the special counsel's office?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: That's a question I would refer you to special counsel.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It was a sign White House officials are becoming more guarded in their comments, after their own false statements came back to haunt them.
(on camera): Were you lying to us at the time or were you in the dark?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president has denied and continues to deny the underlying claim. And, again, I have given the best information I had at the time.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House is trying to dig out of a credibility crisis, as it tries to convince the Senate to confirm the president's pick for CIA director, Gina Haspel, who nearly withdrew her name from consideration after questions arose about her involvement in the CIA's use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques after 9/11.
Sanders says the White House is all in on Haspel.
HUCKABEE SANDERS: She wants to do everything she can to make sure the integrity of the CIA remains intact, isn't unnecessarily attacked.
ACOSTA: And the president has his eye on a different campaign, urging Republicans to reject GOP Senate candidate Don Blankenship, who is running again the Republican establishment with a message that sounds overtly racist.
DON BLANKENSHIP (R), WEST VIRGINIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich.
ACOSTA: The president tweeted: "To the great people of West Virginia, we have together a really great chance to keep making a big difference. The problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can't win the general election in your state. No way."
The problem for the president, Blankenship comes across a lot like Mr. Trump.
BLANKENSHIP: The fake news is also pretending to be offended by my use of the words China people. They seem not to realize that China is a country, not a race.
ACOSTA: And the White House obviously does not want a repeat of what happened in Alabama, where the president supported Roy Moore, who had been accused of sexual misconduct, and then lost a Senate race down there.
On a completely different front, though, just before the president was out there in the Rose Garden with the first lady as she unveiled her message of Be Best, earlier today, the president revealed he will be announcing his decision on the Iran nuclear deal.
That's at 2:00 tomorrow here at the White House. It is widely expected, Wolf, the president will pull out of the deal which he's repeatedly attack as one of the worst agreements in U.S. history .
Wolf, if the president makes good on this rhetoric, it is likely Iran will restart its nuclear program. And European allies of the U.S. are already indicating, Wolf, that the writing is on the wall that the president will pull the U.S. out of that deal -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very, very serious situation unfolding.
Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
The president also lashed out at the Russian investigation in a series of very angry tweets. Our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is working this part of the story for us.
Jessica, the president clearly on this issue very much on the offensive.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much on the offensive here, Wolf.
And the president continues to make his case both on Twitter and in the press, reiterating he did not obstruct justice; instead, he says he's just been fighting back. But on the legal front, the obstruction of justice probe by the special counsel's team will definitely be a lot more intricate than what the president has really been trying to simplify.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, the president continues to fight back questions about whether his actions inside the Oval Office obstructed justice, tweeting: "The Russia witch-hunt is rapidly losing credibility. House Intelligence Committee found no collusion, coordination or anything else with Russia. So now the problem says, OK, what else is there? How about obstruction for a made-up, phony crime. There's no O. It's called fighting back."
Fighting back, a favorite phrase.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you fight back, they say, oh, that's obstruction of justice. Somebody says something wrong, you you fight back, they say that's obstruction of justice. It's nonsense.
SCHNEIDER: Rudy Giuliani backs the claims that all the president's actions have been well within his power.
GIULIANI: There's no evidence of obstruction of justice. Everything the president did, he has perfect authority to do under Article 2.
SCHNEIDER: But legal experts say fighting back and obstruction of justice are on two separate plains. Fighting back is more of a political tactic, while obstruction carries hefty legal implications.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He's entitled to fight back. The question is, how does he fight back? If he just says no collusion, no obstruction, that's fine. If he intervenes in an ongoing investigation, fires the head of the investigative team, pardons people maliciously or otherwise, then it may be obstructive behavior.
SCHNEIDER: Obstruction of justice is a felony under federal law and punishable by up to 10 years for in prison for whoever corruptly or by threats of force obstructs or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct or impede the due administration of justice.
One of the key words is corruptly, indicating intent is an important element. ZELDIN: What the person who is investigated obstruction has to do is
do it with corrupt intent, meaning bad purpose. He can't accidentally intervene in a case and be charged with obstruction. He has to with purpose and intent to endeavor to interfere with its success.
SCHNEIDER: The special counsel's investigators are looking at the president's actions and words involving his role with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and fired FBI Director James Comey.
The key questions to determine if there was obstruction, whether the president asked Comey to let it go during a January 2017 dinner referring to the Flynn investigation, whether the president asked the attorney general to protect him, and whether he has retaliated against the attorney general for his recusal from the Russia probe, and why the president fired James Comey.
So far, the president and his new attorney had given three separate rationales. On the day the former FBI chief was fired, the White House pointed to this memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pointing out Comey had mishandled the Clinton e-mail investigation.
But, days later, the president acknowledged the Russia probe was a factor.
TRUMP: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
SCHNEIDER: And , last week, this explanation from Rudy Giuliani:
GIULIANI: He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn't a target of the investigation. He is entitled to that. He is entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that, and he couldn't get that. So, he fired him and he said, I'm free of this guy.
SCHNEIDER: And Rudy Giuliani has really been unrelenting in his rhetoric against the former FBI director.
Giuliani has called James Comey a liar. This weekend, he also called him Judas, saying the special counsel's team instead views Comey as a Moses.
And, of course, these attacks are likely just another tactic by the Trump team to work to discredit the FBI director, since, of course, Wolf, the firing of FBI Director -- former FBI Director James Comey, it is a crucial element and aspect of Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation.
BLITZER: Important point, indeed.
All right, Jessica, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California is joining us. He's a member of both the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
As you know, the president tweeted -- and I'm reading it now -- "There is no O," referring to obstruction. "It's called fighting back."
If there is no underlying crime, do you think the president has a point, that what you may call obstruction, his supporters would just see as fighting back or counterpunching?
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: The president is absolutely wrong.
You can fight back without violating the law. And in this case, the president chose to fight back by committing obstruction of justice. When he fired James Comey, he accidentally fire James Comey. He did that intentionally.
And then a few days later, he went on national TV and told America his reason for doing so was because of the Russian probe. That's textbook obstruction of justice. That's not how you fight back legally.
BLITZER: If this does eventually come down to impeachment in the House of Representatives, isn't that, though, a useful political argument for him?
LIEU: You're right, Wolf. Impeachment is both a political and legal matter.
I think impeachment, like Congress' power to declare war, is one of our gravest responsibilities. It should never be our first option. It has to be our last, and only if we have enough facts and if the law is behind us.
So we have to wait to see what the special counsel's investigation reveals.
BLITZER: The president also tweeted this: "Is this phony witch-hunt going to go on even longer, so it wrongfully impacts the midterm elections, which is what the Democrats always intended?"
What do you say to that point the president's making? Do you think Democrats should be campaigning on this issue, or is that a mistake?
LIEU: What Democrats actually are campaigning on, having a better deal, better wages, better jobs, and better skills. And we're campaigning on an economic message.
In terms of the special counsel investigation, these things take time. Federal investigations take time. Ken Starr's investigation took a very long time. So we just have to wait to see what happens with all the interviews and how the investigation proceeds. BLITZER: The president's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Congressman, says
that they don't have to comply with a Robert Mueller subpoena. Giuliani says they can -- quote -- and I'm reading now -- they can assert the same privileges other presidents have.
What does that mean?
LIEU: Giuliani is just flat-out wrong.
The central lesson of Watergate is that no one is above the law, not even the president. And Nixon vs. the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court came in and said the president has to comply with a subpoena.
Now, in this case, Donald Trump could comply with the subpoena, show up at an interview, and then plead the Fifth Amendment. That is his right to do so. But, politically, it would look very, very bad.
BLITZER: Well, elaborate. Would be the implications if he were to plead the Fifth? Which, of course, is the right of every American citizen to do so, so you don't incriminate yourself.
LIEU: The Fifth Amendment protects defendants in a court of law and in legal proceedings. It does not protect anyone in the court of public opinion.
And Donald Trump, if he were to plead the Fifth, which cause the overwhelming majority of Americans to wonder, what is he hiding and what is he guilty of? So, it would be politically a very bad thing for him to do.
BLITZER: Yes, he has said on several occasions -- we have played the clips many times -- that the mob pleads the Fifth. If you have nothing to hide, why are you pleading the Fifth? If you're not guilty, why are you pleading the Fifth?
He said that on many occasions.
Let's turn to another sensitive issue that's unfolding right now. What do you make of the efforts by the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Devin Nunes, to hold the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in contempt?
LIEU: So, CNN has reported that Devin Nunes doesn't read documents after he requests them. So I'm not sure why he's even requesting documents from Attorney general Jeff Sessions at Department of Justice.
And in this case, there's a difference between Congress doing oversight and Congress meddling in an active investigation. What Devin Nunes is doing is meddling in an active investigation. And the Department of Justice has said this could potentially put sources and lives at risk.
It's a really bad idea, what Devin Nunes is doing.
BLITZER: Do you believe that Congressman Nunes would do such a thing, threaten the Republican-appointed, the president's appointed attorney general, Jeff Sessions, that he would do this, threatening him with contempt, without some sort of green light from the White House?
LIEU: I don't think he would do that.
As you know, last year, he coordinated with the White House and misled the American people by saying he had all this super-secret classified information he needed to go brief the White House on, and it turned out the White House had given it to him for him to do a press conference for.
So he really looks like a puppet of the White House. So, I think this is something that he is working with the White House on to again -- to make the Department of Justice look like they're not credible. And that really is an assault on our democracy and on our law enforcement, and it has just got to stop.
BLITZER: On a different topic, I'm curious to get your thoughts.
What's your reaction to the Trump administration's decision to refer every person now caught crossing the border into the United States illegally for federal prosecution?
LIEU: That is a really bad idea in terms of resources.
We don't have the resources to do that. There's no massive problem. If you look at the data, net migration from Mexico for the last six years has been negative. That means more Mexicans have left America then entered.
And we're really focusing on a problem that is not there. So I think we should apply our federal resources to much more important problems facing America.
BLITZER: And what's your reaction to Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, saying that if, let's say, a mother crosses the border illegally into the United States with, let's say, two children, they're going to separate the mother from the kids; they're going to send the mother to one detention facility, the kids someplace else?
What's your reaction to that?
LIEU: I think that's a horrendous policy. Separating families is not what America does. And I hope Jeff Sessions reverses that policy.
There really is no place for a country, for policies that are cruel and inhumane.
BLITZER: One final question, Congressman, before I let you go.
The president tweeted earlier in the day he will be announcing his final decision on the Iran nuclear deal tomorrow afternoon from the White House.
What are your fears if he decides to walk away from the deal?
LIEU: It would make negotiations with North Korea much more complicated.
If the North Koreans see that the United States pulls out from a deal where Iran is still complying with, then they're going to wonder, can they trust the United States in making a deal for the future?
I think that's one of the fears that not only North Korea has, but also many people in the world, because it does affect American credibility on an ongoing basis.
BLITZER: Congressman Ted Lieu, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
LIEU: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead: President Trump's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani raises the possibility there may have been more hush money paid to women on the president's behalf.
And Giuliani also slams presidential accuser Stormy Daniels for her cameo appearance on "Saturday Night Live."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I solved North and South Korea. Why can't I solve us?
STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM ACTRESS: Sorry, Donald. It's too late for that. I know you don't believe in climate change, but a storm's a coming, baby.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: New bombshell statements by President Trump's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani have the White House facing serious new questions, even as it insists Giuliani is adding value to the president's legal team.
Our national correspondent, Athena Jones, is joining us.
Athena, Giuliani says he's not really involved in the Stormy Daniels case, but guess what? He's been talking about it extensively.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He most certainly has, Wolf.
Rudy Giuliani has quickly become President Trump's most visible legal advocate. He says he's been in frequent contact with the president, telling my colleague Dana Bash that the president -- quote -- "feels like things are moving in the right direction." Still, it seems that every time Giuliani gives an interview, it raises more questions and more potential problems for Trump.
GIULIANI: It's a nuisance payment.
JONES (voice-over): A nuisance payment, that's what Rudy Giuliani is now calling the $130,000 in hush money President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.
GIULIANI: I thought, $130,000, I know this sounds funny to people there at home. I never thought $130,000 was a real payment. It's a nuisance payment. When I settle this, when it was real, or a real possibility, it's a couple million dollars, not $130,000.
JONES: One of the president's newest and most vocal lawyers then went further, publicly suggesting for the first time the Cohen may have also paid other women not to share stories about Trump.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: You said he -- this is a regular arrangement he had with Michael Cohen. So, did Michael Cohen make payments to other women for the president?
GIULIANI: I have no knowledge of that. But I would think, if it were necessary, yes. He made payments for the president, or he conducted business for the president, which means he had legal fees.
Money is laid out and expenditures, which I have on my bills to my clients.
JONES: Daniels' danced tour continued in New York over the weekend, with the porn star also appearing on "Saturday Night Live."
BALDWIN: So, what up, girl?
DANIELS: Hello, Donald.
JONES: Making a cameo in the show's opening skit.
BALDWIN: Just tell me, what do you need for this to all go away?
DANIELS: A resignation.
BALDWIN: I solved North and South Korea. Why can't I solve us?
DANIELS: Sorry, Donald. It's too late for that. I know you don't believe in climate change, but a storm's a coming, baby.
JONES: The former New York mayor blasted the "SNL" appearance, arguing it shows Daniels, who has accused Trump of defamation and is suing him for damages, hasn't been hurt by Trump. GIULIANI: If I were lawyer, I would be very upset. Fame and fortune,
let me make money. How is she damaged? She's become rich as a result of this -- $130,000 doesn't mean anything. Boy, I wish that was my case.
JONES: Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, arguing on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" that it's Giuliani whose appearances are creating problems for his client, the president.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: I think that when all the facts and the evidence come out, there's going to be evidence of payment -- payments to other women.
But I have to tell you, this interview that Rudy Giuliani gave this morning is just the latest in a series of train wrecks for Rudy Giuliani and the president.
JONES: So, a clear difference of opinion on whether Giuliani is helping the president in all of this.
The former mayor also told Dana Bash he is -- quote -- "focused on the lot more than the facts right now."
But it's not at all clear he has a grasp of the situation on either front. He's further confusing matters on what the president knew about the Daniels payment and when. And he's repeatedly insisting that no campaign finance laws were broken here.
And that's something that campaign finance experts dispute.
BLITZER: They certainly do.
All right, Athena, thanks very much.
Just ahead: President Trump lashes out at the Russian investigation, but insists he's only fighting back. Does that help him with his supporters?
Plus, the first lady, Melania Trump, unveils her platform and its unusual name.
BLITZER: New attacks by President Trump on the Russia investigation, which he says is rapidly losing credibility.
[18:30:17] Let's get some more from our correspondents and analysts. And Gloria Borger, the president tweeted this this morning. I'll read it. "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, "OK, what else is there? How about obstruction for a made-up phony crime? There is no O" -- referring to obstruction -- "It's fighting back." So politically, how strong of an argument is that? Forget about the law for a moment.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it -- this is the president's argument. This is going to be the argument he's going to take into the midterm elections if this -- if this continues through the midterm elections. And my reporting is that it probably will at this -- at this point.
And what the president is trying to do, particularly if he gets subpoenaed, or if he decides to plead the Fifth, what he's trying to do is say, "Why would I talk to people who are running an investigation that is partisan and discredited, and the investigators are a sham, and the investigation is a witch-hunt itself? So there is no particular reason for me to cooperate."
So he is talking to his supporters. He is using it as a way to motivate people to get out and vote. Rather than have this work against him, he's trying to get it to work for him and say, "OK, folks, you know, they've been against me all along, and they still are trying to discredit my presidency."
BLITZER: Very interesting. You know, David Swerdlick, the president also tweeted this. "The 13 angry Democrats in charge of the Russian witch-hunt are starting to find out that there is a court system in place that actually protects people from injustice. And just wait until the courts get to see -- to see your unrevealed conflicts of interest."
What does it say that, amid all of these negotiations for an interview with Mueller perhaps, the president and the Mueller team, the president is still trying to undermine the entire Mueller investigation?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president's trying to undermine it and personalize it and make it a Democrat/Republican thing rather than a wheels-of-justice-going-in-motion thing.
There's a lot going on in that tweet. I suspect that one of the references as to what a federal judge in Virginia said on Friday, basically pushing back a little on the scope of the investigation around Paul Manafort, but note that the judge did not stop the case from going forward.
The other thing in there that's not totally convinced on the part of the president is that Mueller himself is a Republican, and Trump himself was once a Democrat. So the idea that this is about 13 angry Democrats, I just think it probably gins up his base, but doesn't hold water.
BLITZER: Let's not forget, the attorney general, Republican deputy attorney general, Christopher Wray, the FBI director, a Republican, and Robert Mueller, the special counsel, a Republican.
You know, Anne -- Anne Milgram is with us. I want you to watch what Rudy Giuliani, the president's new lawyer, said on the possibility of the president receiving a subpoena from the Mueller team. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: What happens if Robert Mueller subpoenas the president. Will you comply?
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: 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)
BLITZER: You're the former attorney general of New Jersey. What does he mean by that?
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think he's -- he's arguing that they would assert executive privilege. But obviously, he's also talked about the president taking the Fifth Amendment, which is the right against self-incrimination.
I would say that he's wrong, I mean, on a couple of things. First of all, there's no person of the United States of America that is above the law. The U.S. Constitution does not say that you cannot subpoena a sitting president. And in fact, on the contrary.
It also doesn't even mention executive privilege. That's something that the courts that have really evolved in the courts over the last sort of 70 or so years.
The truth is I think in this matter that the president and his legal team could do is push this matter to the courts, if the subpoena was issued, by arguing executive privilege. At the end of the day, I think that fails, and I think the president can be forced to testify. But I do also understand that what Mr. Giuliani is doing is basically raising -- he's raising a legal issue that they would probably take to the courts.
BLITZER: What's the impact, Rebecca Berg, of Giuliani's multiple TV appearances over the past few days?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, we don't know fully yet, Wolf, what the legal impact will be for the president, but I'll cite a little piece of recent history as an example of what can happen.
When the president's travel ban was going through the courts, a judge actually cited a FOX News interview by Rudy Giuliani, in which Giuliani said he spoke with the president at the beginning of the process, the president pitched it to him as a Muslim ban. And that interview ended up being a part of the judge's reasoning in that case.
So you can see the same thing very well happening with this case moving forward, especially if you're looking at potential campaign finance infractions with Michael Cohen.
[18:35:10] Rudy Giuliani, in an interview on FOX, said that this was done, because, can you imagine what would have happened if this came out on October 15 during a debate with Hillary Clinton? Which suggests, you know, it was about the campaign. And so you could see a judge potentially citing that.
BLITZER: I can only imagine, Gloria, what the president's other lawyers are saying to themselves and to each other when they see Giuliani say all these kinds of things on television.
BORGER: I think they're pulling their hair out. I think that, you know, Rudy Giuliani is clearly talking to the president here, and whatever they're concocting, I think they're doing it together. And I think that this is a legal team that is just now trying to find some new footing, because you have attorneys who are new, the Raskins, for example, from Florida, have to get up to speed on all of this, and Giuliani is freelancing out there, it seems to me. And coming up with these things that perhaps the other lawyers haven't signed off on.
On the other hand, I will tell you that, from my reporting, there is some sense that, at least there somebody out there defending the president vociferously and saying, you know, "We're not going to put up with this. This is tainted. You know, the president's a busy guy. He doesn't have time for any of this," in addition to the president.
2So far the president has been the one out there saying that. So the president may be very happy to a degree that Giuliani is out there as the messenger. The question is legally whether he's got the right message legally. I mean, politically, it's fine, but legally is another -- is another issue entirely.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stick around. There's a lot more we're working on right now, including the White House facing more questions after Rudy Giuliani says it's possible -- get this -- that there was more hush money paid to other women on the president's behalf.
[18:41:53] BLITZER: The White House says it's not aware of other hush money payments to women besides Stormy Daniels, but the president's lawyer wouldn't rule them out.
Anne Milgram, let me play this clip. This is Rudy Giuliani once again, opening up yet another can of worms, potentially, for the president. Listen to this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said he -- this was a regular arrangement he had with Michael Cohen. So did Michael Cohen make payments to other women for the president?
GIULIANI: I have no knowledge of that, but I would think, if it was necessary, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I would think if it was necessary, yes. Is he creating yet more problems for the president, Anne?
MILGRAM: Yes, I think so. And, you know, I read that answer as it's probably yes, right? I mean, you know, it's very carefully worded: "I have no specific knowledge of that, but if that were the case, then the answer would be yes."
And so I think the other thing to think about, in this circumstance, is remember that the lawyer who had brought the matter to Michael Cohen for Karen McDougal is the same lawyer that brought the matter to Michael Cohen with Stormy -- with Stormy Daniels.
And so it's pretty clear that Cohen had a relationship, at least with that lawyer. They did, at least, too such deals that we know of. And so I think the question in my mind is how many other deals were there? And what kind of authorization did Cohen have to negotiate those deals? And is it something where, before he was president, Donald Trump said, "Look, anybody who comes forward, you know, cut them a check, but don't pay them more than $200,000"? Or is it something where it was a case by case determination? But there are definitely, I think, a lot more questions to be asked around that.
BORGER: You know, Rudy Giuliani said, "You know, I do that for my clients all the time. I do things for them, and then, you know, I bill them for it."
Well, if you were billing them for multiple payoffs to multiple women, you itemize it in your bill to your -- to your client? I mean, you know, it seems to me that Rudy Giuliani -- I agree with you, Rudy Giuliani was giving a little bit too much information there.
BORGER: More than he -- more than he should have.
BLITZER: Yes, he's doing a lot of interviews, though, and he's saying a lot of stuff.
You know, Rebecca, take a look at the new CNN poll that we have. We asked the question, "Do you approve or disapprove of the president's -- the way the president is operating right now?" Forty-one percent approve of the job. He's doing 53 percent disapprove. That number has been relatively steady.
On this question, though, are things going around the country right now. Look at this, 57 percent now think -- 57 percent, a majority, now think things are going well in the country right now. That's an important issue, right track/wrong track. Political analysts, they look at that very closely.
BERG: Absolutely. And so that number right there is a reason for some optimism among Republicans. I mean, overall, things do not look good for the Republican Party going into these midterms.
And when you hear Republicans talk about it, they talk about defying history, defying historical trends of the party, of the president losing that first midterm election. But if you look at that indicator, and also just the strong economic
indicators in general, usually when you would see those numbers, you would not expect a big wave election. And so what you might see, if Republicans lose the House, maybe it won't be a wave; they'll be losing by a narrow margin, or maybe they can hold on.
[18:45:07] Most people still don't expect that that will happen.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, the president was at about 44 percent on inauguration day. Now, he's in the low 40s, hasn't lost that much support. To Rebecca's point, unemployment is below 4, stock market is up about 21 percent, 22 percent since he took office. That I think that's why, even with so many controversies, he's maintained that level of popularity or --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes, Gloria, go ahead.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I mean, when you -- I mean, the thing I look at when I look at this is that if 57 percent of the people in the country think we're on the right track and things are going well, why is the president's approval/disapproval upside-down? I mean, the president, you know, for better or worse, gets credit or doesn't get credit.
So, if everybody thinks things are going well, a large majority thinks are going well, why doesn't he have the same kind of approval rating? Normally that would translate. The reason obviously is he because he's got lots of other issues that people don't approve of with him. And that's you know, that's the key to his problems.
BLITZER: Good point.
Rebecca, what did you think of the first lady's appearance today, the speech she delivered in the Rose Garden over at the White House, announcing her new platform?
BERG: Well, it was certainly a moment for Melania, Wolf. She hasn't been a very visible first lady. And here she took a big risk coming out, developing for everyone to see a platform for her to pursue from a policy perspective. So, it was a very big moment for her.
Now, we are hearing a lot of criticism obviously, because she's tackling an issue like cyber-bullying, which there's so many questions about the tactics that her own husband, the president of the United States, has used to social media. And so, maybe she should be starting at home is what some of the critics are saying.
BLITZER: She's a lot more popular right now than her husband is, according to our new CNN poll.
SWERDLICK: Yes, Wolf. I mean, I think the first lady has actually been one of the more on message public facing people on this administration. She doesn't have a formal role or an official role. But as first lady, she has presented a positive face of the administration most of the time, whereas you've had a lot of other senior people in the administration who've created problems like Rudy Giuliani, he's not in administration, but -- or Sarah Huckabee Sanders, have at times created more problems for the administration.
BLITZER: Anne, what did you think?
ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I thought it was very interesting and, you know, I leave politics to our experts. But I thought it was a very interesting announcement. Obviously, a very sort of feel-good one in the midst of a lot of bad news that's been going on and a lot of controversy that's been going on.
BLITZER: It's "Be Best", Gloria. That's the name of her new platform. "Be Best."
BORGER: How can anybody disagree with that? Of course, we want to be our best.
Look, I give her credit, you know, she did take on the cyber-bullying issue. She knows that she's going to -- she's going to be trolled herself for doing that because of her husband, but in a way, it's her way of being independent and saying, this is what I care about. Yes, you know, there's all that stuff about starting as home, but she's not going to change Donald Trump, she knows it.
And so, I think it's her way of distancing herself, separating herself and saying, OK, my husband does what he does. This is going to be my agenda.
BLITZER: What did you think of the slogan "Be Best", David?
SWERDLICK: Could have used the definite article, "the" in there, "be the best" might have helped. But I think the real problem with it if anything going back to what you were saying, is that there are so many things packed into "be best", right? Cyberbullying, drug addiction, positivity, that's a lot to take on for a first lady.
BERG: It is a broad portfolio, for sure.
BLITZER: She was impressive, I got to tell you, in the Rose Garden.
SWERDLICK: It was a good speech.
BLITZER: She was very good.
Let's see how she follows up right now from her words into her deeds. Guys, thanks very much.
Just ahead, did aides to President Trump actually help hire an Israeli private intelligence firm to dig up dirt on the Obama administration's officials involved in the Iran nuclear deal?
And there's more breaking news. More homes lost to the volcano disaster unfolding in Hawaii. We're going to go there live.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:53:58] BLITZER: President Trump says he'll announce tomorrow whether he's tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, which he's been blasting since he was a candidate. And now, there are reports his aides took some very disturbing steps to try to discredit the agreement.
Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has been working the story for us.
Jim, I take it this involved a private Israeli intelligence firm?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I spoke to one of the targets of this con call. He was an official in Obama administration's NFC, and he says that not only he himself, but also his wife became unwitting targets of what they suspect was an effort to besmirch them and therefore undermine the Iran nuclear deal.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Just days after President Trump visited Israeli last May, a private Israeli intelligence firm reportedly hired by Trump aides, began compiling files on Obama administration officials involved in the Iran nuclear deal. This according to the observer, the effort by the firm Black Cube was reportedly intended to discredit the officials, Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, in order to undermine the deal, and make it easier for Trump to withdraw.
[18:55:07] Documents show that Black Cube compiled detailed profiles of Rhodes and Kahl, "The New Yorker" reports. It listed their addresses, makes of their cars and information on their relatives.
CNN has obtained e-mails to Kahl's wife in May 2017, sent from a person with an apparently fake European financial firm, claiming to be interested in investing in their child's school. Kahl's wife, growing suspicious, repeatedly tried to divert the outreach to someone else, writing, quote: There's nothing that I know about the school that she does not. In fact, she's had a lot more interaction with the school in various capacities and will be more helpful to you than I.
But the person insisted, writing, quote: The reason I'm responding to you individually, is because I want to hear from you, an involved parent, about the workings of the school, before reaching out via official channels.
Notably the name of the firm, Ruben Capital Partners, is the same name used by a fictitious firm involved in discrediting one of Harvey Weinstein's accusers.
And reached by CNN, Black Cube denied the reports of a connection to Trump, saying in a statement, quote: It is Black Cube's policy to never discuss its clients with any third-party and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company's work. Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration or to the Iran nuclear deal. The same month those e-mails were sent, however, Sebastian Gorka, at
the time, still an adviser to the Trump administration, also publicly singled out Rhodes and Kahl for criticism on FOX News.
SEBASTIAN GORKA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: When is this conspiracy theory insanity of the resist movement, of the Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl nexus going to say, look, we're not going to endanger national security anymore?
SCIUTTO: The reports come as Trump faces a May 12th deadline to decide whether to continue waiving sanctions against Iran under the nuclear agreement, or pull out of the deal.
SCIUTTO: And in fact, as that deadline approaches on Saturday with the president's announcement scheduled for tomorrow, 2:00, speaking to several European diplomats who've been in Washington in the last several days and weeks trying to convince the Trump administration to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, they're feeling is very strongly that that announcement tomorrow is going to be the president withdrawing from the agreement.
BLITZER: We don't know what the ramifications of that announcement will be. It could be enormous.
SCIUTTO: No, in fact, and I spoke to a senior European diplomat who was here in town, making the case to stay in the deal and he made that point, that the consequences of the deal have not been spelled out or interestingly, he says, even understood by the Trump administration.
BLITZER: Let's see what he says tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. We'll have live coverage, of course, on CNN.
Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto.
There's other news we're following, including that volcanic eruption in Hawaii. It's now destroyed almost three dozen homes and buildings, but it's not just lava posing a danger, the eruption is releasing toxic gas and triggering earthquakes.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is on the big island for us.
Stephanie, what's the latest?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when you look at some of the pictures coming out from these fissures and this lava that is oozing into the neighborhood of Leilani Estates, you can take a look at this one time-lapse that we have now of the lava cascading across the street and basically devouring a car. It almost looks like that old movie "The Blob", the way it's coming out and just taking over the road.
That is why officials want people to stay away. That is their big concern, is the fact that this lava, when it does move, you can't stop it, there's no way to get in front of it and make it not go the way that it is going.
On top of it, those gases, when you get a whip of it, when it hits you, it takes your breath away. They're deadly. That is the largest reason they've created a larger perimeter around these areas.
But to get a better idea of what it looks like in this area that's been affected, we took to the sky yesterday and from there, you could see the black snaking leftover trail of the lava that has been left and cooled in place. And in some places, how it's wrapped around some of the buildings and there's no other thing for those buildings to do but to catch on fire.
And a lot of these are homes, these are places that people have decided to live right by paradise, but the sad part about this, Wolf, is a lot of these people do not have lava insurance, because it's so astronomically expensive. So, for the people that have lost their homes in this area, they have lost everything in the world that they own -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very, very disturbing. And those images, so scary.
Stephanie Elam is in Hawaii for us. I know you're working the story. You'll stay in touch with us. Thank you very much for that report.
And that's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.