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Trump Tweets About Investigation; Giuliani on Cohen Payments; McCain Making Funeral Preparations; Officials Preparing Contingency; North Korea Meeting. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired May 7, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Being one of the most competitive seats.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: All right, more on that as we (INAUDIBLE). Sorry to cut you off there.
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Wolf Blitzer starts right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 6:00 p.m. in London. 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
Presidential defiance. Rudy Giuliani now suggesting President Trump may plead the Fifth and not comply with any subpoena issue by Robert Mueller's team. But would it work?
Plus, the president's controversial pick to lead the CIA, not only offering to withdrawal her nomination, but now national security officials detailing a backup plan if Gina Haspel falters during her confirmation hearing this week.
And as the president gets ready to decide the fate of the Iran nuclear deal in the coming days, new reported accusations that Trump aides hired private Israeli spies to look into Obama officials in efforts to undermine the deal.
All that coming up.
But, first, President Trump came out swinging today against the Russia investigation and the special counsel, Robert Mueller. With the deadline this week to decide on the Iran nuclear deal and the upcoming summit with North Korea, the president instead seems focused right now on attacking investigators, tweeting this, the Russia witch hunt is rapidly losing credibility. House Intelligence Committee found no collusion, coordination or anything else where Russia. The 13 angry Democrats in charge of the Russia witch hunt are starting to find out that there is a court system in place that actually protects people from injustice, and just wait till the courts get to see your unrevealed conflicts of interest, closed quote.
Our White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, is joining us right now.
Jeremy, that's not all we heard from the president. What more are you hearing from over where you are as the president tweets his displeasure?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we're hearing it all from the president this morning, Wolf. With no public events on the docket today and a clear schedule this morning, the president taking to Twitter to vent his frustrations as he does from time to time. A series of nine tweets this morning coming from the president sharing his state of mind on various matters.
But one of the big focuses here was the special counsel's investigation, which he referred to multiple times on Twitter this morning as the Russia witch hunt. The president sounding off on various topics with regard to this, saying that he did not obstruct justice in any way, calling it fighting back, which unclear if that's actually going to help his case.
And the president also sounding off on what the potential implications could be of this investigation on Republicans' chances to keep Congress in the midterms. He 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? Republicans better get tough and smart before it is too late.
The president, interestingly enough, it's been the president and his legal team who have really been bringing this investigation to the forefront in recent days. And the president, once again, calling attention to that investigation and bringing it back into the headlines.
BLITZER: Yes, nonstop tweeting from the president once again on this day.
Jeremy, at the White House. Jeremy Diamond reporting, thanks very much.
No collusion. No obstruction. That has become the president's mantra in response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Earlier this morning he also tweeted this, quote, 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. it's called fighting back.
Let's bring in former assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Wehle. She was an associate, independent council during the Whitewater investigation.
What do you make of the president's latest tweets about a made-up, phony crime?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think that we're well beyond that -- that assumption at this point. I mean the House Intelligence Committee is highly politicized. It's not thorough. It's not comprehensive. It's not measured. I think the -- we have to focus on the Department of Justice's probe here, which is headed by Robert Mueller, and he's going to make a determination as to whether the facts and the law give rise to any additional crimes. Remember, we already have three guilty pleas and a number of indictments. So the notion that this is made up and it's a witch hunt is just belied not just by what Mueller has done so far, but also by the stuff that's public, the facts we know about the Russian influence on the campaign. That stuff is not disputable at this point.
BLITZER: The president's newest attorney, Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, says that if Mueller issues a subpoena forcing the president to testify, the president does not have to comply with that subpoena. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: What happens if Robert Mueller subpoenas the president? Will you comply?
[13:05:01] RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S 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)
BLITZER: So, from a legal standpoint, is Giuliani right?
WEHLE: I think he's incorrect. I mean we have, historically, a number of circumstances where presidents have complied with subpoenas. Richard Nixon tried to quash a subpoena, stop a subpoena for tapes, and a Supreme Court of the United States, in a unanimous decision, said, no, you can actually be required to respond to a subpoena. And then, of course, we had Clinton versus Jones where Mr. Clinton didn't want to testify in a civil deposition, and the Supreme Court said, no, you've got to do it. So I just think Mr. Giuliani's wrong.
Now, Mr. Trump seems to believe, or his team seems to believe, that the president has some kind of power that's supreme to other branches, and that's a myth, and I think that's inaccurate, and it's something that hopefully we'll see play out in a fair way.
BLITZER: Giuliani was also asked whether to avoid testifying. The president might plead the Fifth. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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, and which every lawyer in America thinks he'd be a fool to testify, I've got a client who wants to testify. Please, don't -- he said it yesterday. And, you know, Jay and I said to ourselves, my goodness, you know, I hope we get a chance to tell him the risk that he's taking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just a reminder what the president has said in the past about anyone who pleads the Fifth. Listen to this.
(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)
BLITZER: So what are the legal implications of his taking the Fifth, which every U.S. citizen, of course, has the right to do, given those kinds of comments that he's made over the years?
WEHLE: Well, I mean he's accurate to the extent to which he's saying that you can't fake it and take the Fifth. That is, if you're going to take the Fifth, you are actually claiming that you've got information that if you are testify you would incriminate you -- yourself. So Mr. Trump is basically saying, if he takes the Fifth, if I talk, I'm going to get myself in criminal liability.
Now, the way this would go, his lawyer would send Mr. Mueller a letter saying he officially plead the Fifth. And then Mueller would have a couple options. DOJ policy is typically to give that person a pass and say, we're not going to call them before the grand jury. Alternatively, he could require Mr. Trump, to actually appear before the grand jury. The Fifth Amendment does not protect you from showing up. And then it would be a question by question inquiry. And Mr. Trump would have to make a determination as to whether, with respect to each particular question, he should incriminate himself by answering. And typically he would not have his lawyer present in that circumstance. So we don't know which way it would go.
BLITZER: He would have to -- if he didn't want to answer the question, he'd have to say, upon the advice of my council, I'm not going to answer that question, blah, blah, blah.
What do you think of his freewheeling style over these past few days? He's a former U.S. attorney, former Justice Department official, former mayor of New York and all of a sudden he's representing the president of the United States on some of the most sensitive legal issues and he's clearly going very freestyle.
WEHLE: Listen, I'm also a law professor. I don't think this -- Mr. Giuliani is acting like most lawyers would act. He's not taking steps to be very conservative, minimize his client's exposure. He's doing quite the opposite and creating a lot of drama and potential additional liability that's bad for Mr. Trump. But he doesn't have a lot of options. I mean -- he's right that producing Mr. Trump at this point to testify under oath is a non-starter for most defense lawyers. It's not a good option. So he's taking a political point of view and trying to, I think, mislead the American public on the notion that somehow this investigation within the Department of Justice is a problem, is a witch hunt. And I think that we all have to uphold that institution so we can have fair justice across the board regardless of political party.
BLITZER: Good point.
Kim, thanks very much. Kim Wehle, helping us appreciate the legal nuances of all of this.
The president says Rudy Giuliani is still getting his facts straight, but Giuliani's comments are certainly raising a whole bunch of questions and deep, deep concerns. For example, Giuliani says Stormy Daniels may not have been the only woman who was paid off by the president's personal attorney. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: 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. He made payments for the president, or he conducted business for the president, which means he had legal fees, moneys laid out and expenditures, which I have on my bills to my client.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger is joining us right now from New York.
Gloria, what do you make of this latest, rather surprising comment by Rudy Giuliani?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Rudy Giuliani is meeting with one person, and that's the president of the United States. And I think he is freelancing otherwise. He is not getting any talking points from the other attorneys. I think, in fact, some of them are kind of appalled at what he is saying because he is putting his client in some more jeopardy. And as the president himself said, you know, Rudy has to get up to speed on the case.
[13:10: 24] So they -- they need a messenger out there, and they're all aware of that. And I think they'd like to have one. And they'd like to speak with one voice and one informed voice. But the problem is that they have new members on the team and they have the president running his own legal team and running his own PR team and so it's very difficult for everybody to get together and say, this is the case that we ought to be making.
And what you see happening with Rudy Giuliani, one person described it to me as like someone jumping into the pool doing a cannonball with everything splattering over everything else. And so they need to kind of figure out now, does the president's case intersect at all with Michael Cohen's case? Are they going to get a subpoena? Will -- will the special counsel hold back on a subpoena? I presume they're preparing to get a subpoena right now. I would if I was in the president's defense team.
So there's a lot going on now that is kind of just gearing up again because, don't forget, they've had this huge shift in representation.
BLITZER: An important point indeed.
Let me quickly, Gloria, shift gears, talk about the Arizona senator, John McCain.
BLITZER: As all of us know, of course, he's been battling very serious brain cancer. A source says Senator McCain has asked former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to deliver eulogies at his funeral. We hope it's still way, way down the road. But a source also says President Trump is not expected to be invited. What do you make of that?
BORGER: Well, first of all, we know that Donald Trump is still casting aspersions on John McCain's vote on Obamacare to this day and said he wasn't a war hero, and they disagree on foreign policy. They have not been friends. And so I think perhaps it shouldn't come as any surprise to us that when John McCain is talking about his funeral, that perhaps he -- he just -- you know, he wants people there whom he cares about and whom he thinks care about him.
What's interesting about Obama and about George W. Bush is that he wasn't, you know, particularly close with either one of them. He had a hard-fought presidential race against Barack Obama. But I think he's making a larger point here, which he -- which is that he wants bipartisanship, he wants the country to start working again, he wants two men who were civil in their politics to represent him and to speak about the kind of civility that he thinks is missing from American politics. So what better than to invite the man who vanquished you in the presidential race and to invite George W. Bush, with whom he disagreed on a lot of issues, including the torture issue. And I think that have both of them speak together to represent what he wants the country to start thinking about again, which is making government work.
BLITZER: Good point. Very important points, indeed.
Gloria, thank you very much.
BLITZER: Coming up, did President Trump -- did his aides hire private Israeli spies to dig up dirt on Obama administration officials all in an effort to try to undermine the Iran nuclear deal? The new reported accusations. We have details.
Plus, preparing a backup plan. Sources are now telling CNN, other options are already being floated for a nominee to lead the CIA as Gina Haspel's nomination now hangs in the balance. And as the first lady gets ready to announce her formal platform from
the White House Rose Garden, she's enjoying some fresh poll numbers that show her favorability climbing well past her husband's.
[13:18:29] BLITZER: Preparing a Plan B for the CIA. President Trump is standing by his nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, though national security officials are already planning a contingency plan if she doesn't make it through the confirmation process in the U.S. Senate. Haspel already offered to pull her name from consideration but was talked out of it by the White House.
Today, the president tweeted his support. Quote, my highly respected nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, has come under fire because she was too tough on terrorists. Think of that. In these very dangerous times, we have the most qualified person, a woman, who Democrats want out because she is too tough on terror. Win, Gina, closed quote.
With us right now is William Cohen, the former defense secretary during the Bill Clinton administration.
Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
She's got some problems because of enhanced interrogation techniques, water boarding, torture. You think she should be confirmed?
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think she should go before the Senate Intelligence Committee and have the members examine what role she actually played, what were the instructions she was given. Did the attorney general give her permission, legal permission as such. And then, do the members of the Intelligence Committee say, even though you think you were following orders, legal orders, you don't have to follow illegal orders. If you were following legal orders, we still have a difference of opinion.
Senator John McCain, my friend who is now in some difficulty, said he's against torture. He knows what torture is and what it does and what it doesn't do, very fundamentally against it.
[13:20:03] And bringing up John McCain's name, I just want to say a couple of words.
John welcomed my wife Janet the first time she came and he saw that we were an interracial couple. He endorsed that relationship and said he was going to throw his arms around us. And I'll never forget that.
Secondly, he's a man of -- believes in peace through strength, not just weapons, but of character and courage. And I would say if there's any individual that would be deserving of the Medal of Freedom, it would be John McCain right now. Unlikely that this president would do that, but it would be an act of great grace and generosity to recognize the man who went through five years of torture, who was still able to overcome that, and then say, let's have a peaceful arrangement with Vietnam, the people who tortured him. He oversaw that, overlooked that and said it's more important that we do this for our country.
BLITZER: As you remember, as a candidate, President Trump said Senator McCain was not a hero. He was a POW. You know what, heroes are not POWs, even though he spent five years in a north Vietnamese prison. And now he clearly does not want the president of the United States to show up at his -- at his funeral. He's in very bad physical shape, as we all know.
COHEN: I thought it was a disgraceful statement on the part of the president to not recognize his heroism, what he gave up, the courage he demonstrated, not only in flying into anti-aircraft weapons, but also surviving five years of almost day-to-day torture. And then to say I'm not coming out before my time, that's the real character of this country, strength of principles, honor and duty and country. And to say that he's not a hero because he was captured, I thought it was disgraceful.
BLITZER: Yes. And he could have left Vietnam earlier. They were willing to let him because his father was a major admiral in the U.S. Navy. But he said, you know what, I'm here and I'm staying as long as my men are with me.
COHEN: His father was actually conducting the bombings on north Vietnam. That was one of the reasons they were trying to get John to leave early, so thinking he'd get good graces of the -- of his father and stop the bombing.
BLITZER: And what did you think of the last couple days, the president, on two occasions, even at this late moment in John McCain's life, really going after him for that negative vote at 3:00 in the morning on Obamacare? You saw what the president's been saying lately.
COHEN: I have and it's discouraging. We're all anxious to have the president of the United States rise above pettiness and grievances and conduct himself as a leader of our country. In fact, when there's talk about a Nobel Prize, I'd like to have a Nobel Prize given for reuniting this country, of healing the divide that's taking place in this country that is in danger of tearing us apart. I would like to have the president take that measure to heal us and be a president for all the people, not just for hard-core Republicans or be opposed to hard-core Democrats.
BLITZER: What do you think about what's going on now? There's almost certainly going to be a meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong- un of North Korea maybe at the end of May, early June. They're trying to figure out were to do it. It could be along the demilitarized zone. It looks like it's going to happen. You support that?
COHEN: I do. I do, but we should proceed with caution. One thing that really disturbed me over the last few days is to see a document or something leaked to the press that the president is asking the Department of Defense to give him options about how we could reduce our presence. That may --
BLITZER: In South Korea. COHEN: In South Korea. That may come later, but to talk about that up
front is really undercutting a very major card that we have to play. This is what Kim Jong-un wants. In fact, he's publicly stated he's not asking for that. So why would you send out a message to the DOD, give me some options of how I can reduce it.
Number one, it's bad to give up something before you need to. Number two, the reduction of troops, it's very hard to put them back in once you reduce them or take them out.
Secondly, if you try to put them back in, that is a signal that tensions are ratcheting up and you may be the prelude to an attack. And so that in itself could produce a preemptive strike against the South.
So I think for all of the reasons -- that may come at the end. It may work to our advantage. But you also shouldn't look at this as a transaction. Looking at simply as North Korea, South Korea, U.S. What about Japan? If the countries in the region start to feel that we're only interested in the U.S., Japan may find that it's on its own. If it's on its own, it may, in fact, be tempted to go into the nuclear realm, which is what President Trump advised they should do when he was campaigning.
BLITZER: The U.S. has about 30,000 troops in South Korea, and President Trump has made no secret he'd like to get them out of there. He'd like to get them out of Japan, get them out of Germany, get troops out of a lot of places.
But let me quickly get your thoughts. Rudy Giuliani, the new president -- presidential lawyer helping the president, he said the other day that the three Americans being held prisoner in North Korea would be released later that day. They still have not been released. This is a very, very sensitive issue. Clearly the U.S. would like to see those Americans released. I'm sure when Mike Pompeo, then CIA director, now secretary of state, was in Pyongyang, met with Kim Jong-un, he raised this issue.
[13:25:21] But what do you think of the president's lawyer now all of a sudden talking about a really sensitive subject like this on the eve of these talks?
COHEN: Well, I think he's acting more as an advocate and less as a lawyer. Just looking -- I used to practice law many, many years ago, and so I can't give professional advice as such. But as a lawyer, you're trying to protect the interests of the president and to minimize the extraneous assaults upon him in any fashion. And if you start to become an advocate, start making statements that are political in nature, then you're serving the political advocate and not as a lawyer.
BLITZER: William Cohen, thanks very much for joining us.
COHEN: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Always good to have you here. Thank you. COHEN: New reported accusations swirling around the White House right now. Did Trump aides hire private Israeli spies to look into Obama officials in an effort to undercut the Iran nuclear deal?
Plus, on the eve of the West Virginia Republican Senate primary, the president has come out swinging against the controversial -- very controversial candidate who has been surging in recent days. We have new details. Stay with us.