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White House Aide Kelly Sadler Mocks McCain: 'He's Dying Anyway'; Trump to Meet with Embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt; Giuliani's Law Firm Rejects His Defense of Daniels Payment; Pence on Mueller Probe: 'Time to Wrap It Up'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2018 - 06:00   ET




[05:59:17] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a war hero.

TRUMP: I like people that weren't captured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sadler said McCain's opposition doesn't matter because he's going to die anyway.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The whole thing is disgusting. And the idea that this didn't come from the top is absurd.

TRUMP: We have to do something stronger. We are going to build a wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president just erupted. Much of his anger was directed at Kirstjen Nielsen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump loves ritual humiliation. This is the price of admission.

TRUMP: On June 12, in Singapore, I'll be meeting with Kim Jong-un.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been a bit unorthodox. We're in a better place. The temperature has been turned down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is going to have to do two things: prepare and listen.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, May 11, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.

Leaks and infighting competing with a big week for President Trump on the world stage. A White House aide making a nasty comment about John McCain and his opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel. The aide said, quote, "It doesn't matter. He's dying anyway."

The White House is not disputing that remark about a war hero fighting brain cancer.

President Trump is at odds with another top official in his administration. A source tells CNN that the president berated his homeland security secretary in front of the entire cabinet, insisting that she is not doing enough to secure the border.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We'll be talking about what that aide said a lot this morning. Remember, the White House put out a statement. They didn't say it was wrong, what was said. The president has said nothing about it. We'll talk about that this morning and why.

President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is trying to come clean and get rid of some comments that he made. He suggested it is common practice for lawyers to make hush-money payments for their clients. He said it more than once. The law firm from which Rudy Giuliani just resigned, rejected that defense of his -- of the $130,000 payment that Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Giuliani said he was referring to NDAs, nondisclosure agreements, not hush money, and says representing Trump is the biggest case of his life.

Now, despite all of these issues, it was a significant week of foreign policy accomplishments for President Trump. He pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal and brought back three captive Americans from North Korea. On Monday, the U.S. will open its embassy in Jerusalem.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip, live at the White House.

A big week any way you look at it.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. This morning President Trump is waking up with a little bit of a high after the three Americans were released from North Korea detention and also ahead of this expected meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore in Singapore. He celebrated with a raucous campaign rally in Indiana last night.

But here, back at the White House, there are more staff troubles and stories of infighting coming out of this building, yet again threatening to overshadow the president's foreign policy achievements.


PHILLIP (voice-over): White House aide Kelly Sadler under fire for an insensitive comment she made about Senator John McCain. A White House official saying CNN Sadler told staffers in a closed-door meeting to dismiss McCain's opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel by joking that he's dying anyway.

The Arizona senator and war hero has been battling brain cancer for nearly a year. McCain's wife responding on Twitter: "May I remind you, my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren."

Senator Lindsey Graham defending his long-time friend: "John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate."

A source telling CNN Sadler reached out to Senator McCain's daughter to apologize. The comment comes after repeated attacks by President Trump himself.

TRUMP: He's not a war hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a war hero. Five and a half years --

TRUMP: He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you.

And except for one senator who came into a room at 3 in the morning and went like that, we would have had health care, too.

PHILLIP: We're also learning more about infighting in the president's senior team. A source telling CNN President Trump berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, complaining she wasn't doing enough to secure the border.

TRUMP: We have the worst immigration laws in the history of mankind. We're slowly getting them changed. We want to make it quick. So give me some reinforcements, please.

PHILLIP: A White House official describing the president's comments as "angry" and "heated." "The New York Times" reporting Secretary Nielsen told colleagues she was close to resigning after the argument and drafted a resignation letter. Homeland security officials denying that report.

President Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, working to tamp down reports of chaos, telling NPR, "There's times of great frustration." But he's never seriously considered leaving his post and wishes he would have been in the White House from day one.

President Trump taking a victory lap in Indiana on Thursday night, hours after welcoming home three Americans who had been imprisoned in North Korea and announcing a June 12 meeting with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore.

TRUMP: America is being respected again. Kim Jong-un did a great service to himself and to his country by doing this.

PHILLIP: And today President Trump is expected to meet with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt who's been under fire for ethics concerns related to his travel. They're going to be meeting on fuel efficiency standards. And the president is also meeting with automaker CEOs today, Alisyn and Chris.

[06:05:10] CUOMO: All right. Big week. Abby, thank you.

Let's bring in CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory. David Gregory, bad jokes are made. But in this context, with McCain

fighting the fight of his life, the White House puts out a statement and doesn't say the wrong thing was said. They basically put out a condolence statement. The president has said nothing. How do you explain this as anything but indecent?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's crude. It's indecent. It's disgusting. And it's actually -- it's symptomatic of what's happened to our public political discourse under this president.

And Americans have a choice. Leaders in our country have a choice. Do we want the seal broken permanently and we want this to pass as public dialogue that young people listen to and think, "Well, that's just politics today"? No, it's not. It is indecent. It should not be something that becomes normal in our public life.

And this is just, again, another sign of the Trump effect. Because he's the one who started this kind of dialogue about McCain himself, going back to the campaign, saying he was no war hero because he was captured. So it's such disrespect and indecency at a time when someone in public life, such as a huge person in public life in John McCain, is going through such terrible illness. So the fact that the White House doesn't do the right thing should not be surprising.


GREGORY: And the fact that congressional leaders don't take this opportunity to stand up and say, "Enough, enough" is also something that they're going to have to be accountable for.

AVLON: But this is systematic of a deeper problem within the conservative movement. Hating John McCain has been a cottage industry for some folks on the far right for a long time.

What's different is, is that the president elevated it, as David said. And tone comes from the top, and that flows through his administration. And the fact there is not the decency, just the gut is decency, to not kick an objective American hero when he is suffering from cancer, it is stunning. But it's indicative of the atmosphere. It's indicative of how the Republican Party has been hijacked so it's not connected to its moral compass, where even somebody who refused early release from Vietnam. A POW, the leader of their own party, in the 2008 election, that that person is not respected but instead attacked but for the sin of political independence.

That, I think, is an important thing to understand.


AVLON: His really sin is being not playing fealty to simply whoever is empowered at a particular time, the Republican Party.

CAMEROTA: That is such a great point. I mean, so you know, look, Donald Trump again sort of started this. I mean, started it in as public a way when he went after John McCain and POWs. And so, you know, what I think the people sometimes fail to understand

with all the snarkiness is that there are families involved. This has a big ripple effect. Cindy McCain, John McCain's wife, tweeted to the aide, Kelly Sadler, who made this remark: "May I remind you my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren."

Meghan McCain, who's in the public eye, who's on "The View" ever day, she has really been a class act through all of this, and she has to sort of, in public, go through the crucible of, you know, watching her dad's disease. And so we understand she's going to address all of this.

CUOMO: On "The View" today.

CAMEROTA: And Kelly Sadler, I think, called Meghan McCain directly to apologize.

CUOMO: Yes. Let's say it was a bad joke. Let's say it was not animus-driven, that she doesn't really hope that, as some kind of equation between what McCain is doing now. That doesn't matter. This really isn't about Sadler. It's about her boss.

He said nothing about this, and it's a layup in politics. OK? You don't have to have grown up in the business or worked on campaigns to know that. When somebody in your charge says something that's disgusting about somebody who's in the fight of their life, you speak up. It's obvious. Unless -- unless -- you're OK with it. Play the sound of the president talking about John McCain.


TRUMP: He's not a war hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a war hero. Five and a half years --

TRUMP: He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you.

And except for the one senator, who came into a room at 3 a.m. in the morning and went like that, we would have had health care, too. We would have had health care, too.

We got a bad vote the evening that we were going to terminate Obamacare, we got a bad vote. You know about that, right? That was not a nice thing.

We actually had it beaten except for one vote. You remember that beautiful night. It was defeated, but one vote changed.


CUOMO: Look, it's OK to be angry at your opponents, David Gregory. We see it all the time down there. But how you disagree matters.

And we all know that the reason Donald Trump isn't tweeting right now, didn't say anything last night, even though you know he's damn well aware of this, is because he's OK with taking a shot like that at John McCain.

[06:10:06] GREGORY: Yes. And that's the bottom line. And most of the sound you just played, outside of the remark about him not being a hero, that's all fair game.

CUOMO: -- put the montage together, but it just shows the tone.

GREGORY: But my point is that it's actually helpful montage, because it shows the two ends of this, right? Something completely indecent that he said to savage John McCain and his reputation.

And then somebody, you know, John McCain always said politics ain't bean bag. And so you have the president of the United States is going to take on a member of his own party who cast a vote that sunk his version of health care in an attempt to repeal the Obama-era health care plan. So that's the difference. But this is where you're right. This is -- this is the president of the United States, who yet again does not recognize that the office is bigger than him. That to have a White House staff is to represent a great institution of this country.

And you don't allow it to be undermined by, you know, a young person who makes a real mistake and had the decency to call Meg McCain. A tough thing to do.

AVLON: This is not a tough call. And so Speaker Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Republican leadership, step up and condemn it. Step up and condemn it just for the sake of advancing honor and courage in American politics that John McCain almost uniquely stands for at this particular.

CUOMO: My favorite jab on the show is this. You hear that? That's the sound once again of McConnell and Ryan saying nothing in the face of something that they should be saying something about.

CAMEROTA: Yes. One last note on this. Which is that snarkiness and toxicity is contagious.


CAMEROTA: And so when you start publicly going after a war hero like John McCain, it catches fire. And so yesterday on FOX Business there was a former lieutenant, Tom McInerney. He's well-known around FOX. He's been on for years. He's been a peddler of all sorts of birther conspiracies, anti-Muslim vile rhetoric.

But yesterday, I guess he crossed the line even for him. And here's what he said about John McCain.


LT. TOM MCINERNEY (RET.), FOX NEWS ANALYST: The fact is that John McCain, it worked on John. That's why they call him Song Bird John.


CAMEROTA: It's absurd. He stayed in prison, refusing to be let out when he had the opportunity to show solidarity with his fellow soldiers.

GREGORY: Yes, I mean, it's both inaccurate. It's -- unfortunately, there's -- there's a lot of people with really unfortunate views of the world who are on television who can make those kinds of statements. But nobody who knows anything about Senator McCain, Republican or Democrat, would give that any attention.

And you know, there's lots of stuff said on FOX News that doesn't -- doesn't really deserve comment.

CUOMO: McCain is called the Maverick. And that man was thanked for what he said on that show. I know FOX put out a statement afterwards saying he won't be on anymore. In the moment, he was thanked for his comments.

AVLON: And here's just one less sign of, I think, the situation we're dealing with in this country. Is that last fall, John McCain was more popular among independents and Democrats than Republicans. This is a lifelong Reagan Republican. Someone who holds Barry Goldwater's seat. Someone who the far left has never been fond of.

That fact that he's more popular among independents than Democrats and Republicans is both a sign of his broad respect in the political spectrum but also how the fringe of the far right has diminished the honor and respect that he deserves over a lifetime of service.

CAMEROTA: OK. Next point. There is "New York Times" reporting, David, that the head of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, was publicly berated at a cabinet meeting by President Trump, who was quite exercised, because he felt that she hadn't fixed the poorest border and was still allowing illegal immigrants into the country. No one knows what exactly it was that set him off. But publicly berated her to the point where there is some reporting that she considered resigning.

GREGORY: You know, I think partly what's interesting here -- I mean, it's not a surprising story, right, that the president would go off on someone in a public setting like that. It's how often these stories leak. That's what's interesting to me. It's that you have a West Wing that is really so transparent in all of the dysfunction.

And it just shows you that it is a team that's largely not working well together. And we're talking this week about some potential success, real success and actual success with the freeing of the hostages on the part of the president.

But national security and foreign policy is an area where the president and the presidency has a lot of unique control. When it comes to team building and teamwork that leads to moving the country domestically, it's a different matter. And some of these problems on his team, I think, reveal why there hasn't been more accomplishment.

[06:15:06] CUOMO: That's a strong point. I mean, look, I'm not bothered by him going at it with his cabinet secretary. He's got his policy priorities. He's got his own style of how he wants to talk to her. And there's no crying in politics. If you don't like it, get out.

CAMEROTA: But the point is, I mean, someone has made the point that he controls the levers of power. He's blaming her for the fact that there's a porous border and the immigrants keep crossing in? He could have a policy. He could do something rather than insulting her at a cabinet meeting. Is she singlehandedly responsible?

CUOMO: I think the context is off. I think what was going on in the meeting is he was saying, "Hey, you've been given these directives to do these things. They're still not happening, and he was trying to push him to do more." That is is at least within the bounds of normal political dynamic.

AVLON: There's also -- first of all, there's the presidential philosophy, the buck stops here. There's also tone comes from the top. We're in this together. We're going to solve it together. Instead, what member of the cabinet has Trump not insulted in personal terms, in public or pride?

CUOMO: People call it a style. But I'll tell you something. I'll tell you why it's not -- it's not a star. That's not what they really believe. It's because of what David Gregory just told you.

They leak in a way in a way I have never seen, and I've been in this business my entire life, especially what was leaked about Sadler. Especially if it was leaked in the context of them knowing it was a joke that fell flat. That shows complete lack of faith by whoever leaked that story. Because they knew it was a kill shot on Sadler. They know how ugly this is about the administration. They did it anyway.

CAMEROTA: David Gregory, John Avlon, thank you both very much.

CUOMO: Now ahead on NEW DAY, we're going to be talking live with former defense secretary Ash Carter. This is a big "get." You cannot ask for a better mind and more experience when it comes to talking about what we're dealing with with foreign policy right now. He's going to tell us about what he thinks about what's going on in Iran, what he thinks is next with Israel and Iran, what getting out of that deal means. This will be something worth watching.

CAMEROTA: OK. More Rudy Giuliani news. He has resigned from his former law firm. Was the president's new attorney forced out? Why the sudden resignation? We have the answers next.


[06:20:38] CAMEROTA: President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, suggested that it is common for lawyers to make payments to people to keep them quiet. Hush money. Well, Giuliani's former law firm condemned those remarks, and shortly after that he resigned.

Here's what Giuliani originally told Sean Hannity.


stuff like this like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don't burden them with every single thing that comes along.


CAMEROTA: Well, he now tells CNN that he meant attorneys used nondisclosure agreements all the time without telling their client, not that they make $130,000 payments.

We're back now with CNN political analyst David Gregory. Let's bring in CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. So is it true that law firms, if you have them on retainer, do things without telling you and make payments to people and have people sign nondisclosures?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The most charitable reading of Rudy's remarks were that he -- that they sometimes sign nondisclosure agreements about the negotiations without the -- without the consent of the client.

But it is perfectly absurd to suggest that lawyers routinely settle cases without telling -- without telling their clients what they're doing. And that's certainly what he said to Sean Hannity. And that's what really set off Greenberg Traurig.

CUOMO: And I'd be surprised if Rudy ever did anything like that, to be honest. Knowing his past and how he -- who he represents and how he represented them.

Michael Cohen, I think it is strongly evidenced by what his pattern of behavior was, is that he probably did lots of this kind of stuff that Trump was aware of, semi aware of, or unaware of. That doesn't make it OK.

But I'll tell you where Rudy's got himself in a little bit of a bind, as a great legal mind, is in his position about how absurd it is that a president would have to comply with a subpoena. Listen to what he said about this exact issue back in the pre-Trump days.


CHARLIE ROSE, FORMER JOURNALIST: If the president is asked to testify, subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury and says no, not going to do it.

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: You have to do it. I mean, you don't have a choice.


CUOMO: Just take it in.

TOOBIN: But that was then.

CUOMO: Let it happen. You've just got to --

CAMEROTA: Marinate in that.

CUOMO: Why? Because it's never been about the law, David Gregory.


CUOMO: This is all about political opportunism. I am haunted by the likeness of this situation with what we lived through once already with Clinton.

CAMEROTA: But listen to -- but hold on. Before you answer, listen to what Rudy Giuliani says now, 20 years later.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: What happens if Robert Mueller subpoenas the president? Will you comply?

GIULIANI: Well, we don't have to. He's the president of the United States. We can assert the same privilege as other presidents have.


CAMEROTA: You've to do it. You don't have a choice, back then.

GREGORY: Yes, I mean, I'd love to play those two sound bites for Rudy Giuliani now and see how he explains it. I mean, a couple of points.

One, you know, I can't imagine any client being happy with a lawyer representing him or her who has been as wrong as Rudy Giuliani has been, as imprecise as Rudy Giuliani has been, has -- is lacking in command of the facts as he's been. And this is all playing out on an international stage on television. I'd be really worried about that.

The other thing is, as Jeffrey alludes, of course this is just about politics. This is just a political brawl under the guise of legal representation.

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: I love this description of this kind of legal underworld that Rudy Giuliani says he's part of. You know, Jeffrey and I know a lot of lawyers and some of the best in the country. And guess what, people? They don't operate this way, because it's not how it's not done without the client's consent and paying hush money and all the rest. It's garbage.

CUOMO: It's not surprising that Trump likes him being on offense and is so far OK with it. Especially when you put those attributes out there. Loose, imprecise and often wrong on the facts. He's got the right client.

GREGORY: You're hired!

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what Vice President Pence said to NBC News and for the first time seemed to really sort of issue his own verdict on the Mueller investigation. So here's the vice president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[06:25:05] MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been about a year since this investigation began. Our administration has provided over a million documents. We fully cooperated in it. And in the interests of the country, I think it's time to wrap it up. And I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.


TOOBIN: Can I just say one thing? I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with what Mike Pence said there. You know --

CAMEROTA: You think it's OK to wade into an ongoing investigation?

TOOBIN: I mean, in -- in the way he expressed himself. Every administration that gets investigated hopes that an investigation gets wrapped up. I just think, particularly when you compare what Pence said there to what Trump has said over and over again: "Witch-hunt. Nothing to be seen here." I just think, you know, we need to modulate our outrage. And I think there is absolutely nothing outrageous or even improper about what Mike Pence said.

CUOMO: He has every right. The only thing where he gets out of the context of the normal is to think that a year is too long. Because as we know, no disrespect, you were in the business at one time.


CUOMO: You guys like to drag them out, these investigations. I'd be very surprised if Cohen's situation is over within a year.

TOOBIN: You know, it is certainly true that a year is not a long time in --

CUOMO: Benghazi was four years, and that was just political.

TOOBIN: That's right. But expressing frustration about --

CUOMO: Sure, qualifying.

TOOBIN: -- is part of the game, too.

GREGORY: And by the way, that was Mike Pence. I'm sure in his mind he was thinking "What I'm going to say is that this is a witch-hunt, fake news," and that's what came out. That's really -- that's him in fifth gear, basically.

No, I'm with Jeffrey on this. I mean, this is -- you know, I think it's totally -- you know, I'm sure Mueller is saying, "We should wrap this up as soon as possible, too, for the good of the country."

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: It doesn't have any bearing on what the actual result is. CUOMO: It would get wrapped up a lot faster if the president submits

to an interview with him.


CAMEROTA: All right. Now let's talk about what we keep learning about what Michael Cohen was up to and where he was getting money in the leadup to becoming president and afterwards.

So AT&T, which as you know, is trying to buy our parent company, Time Warner, apparently paid him not $200,000 but $600,000, Jeffrey, for what? For his expertise? For slicking the deal with the president? Hard to know. I mean, because let's face it: He's not a telecommunications expert or a merger expert.

TOOBIN: You know, what we -- this whole story about the money that's been paid to Michael Cohen from Novartis, from AT&T, from the Korean company.

CUOMO: Columbus Nova.

TOOBIN: Right. It reminds me of one of my mentors, Michael Kinsley, liked to say Kinsley's Law. The scandal isn't what's illegal. The scandal is what's legal. And, you know, it's what society chooses not to punish. As far as I can tell, there's nothing wrong with this, because Washington operates by these sleazy rules where people sell their their influence.

CUOMO: Nothing illegal.

TOOBIN: Nothing illegal.

CUOMO: Nothing wrong. Plenty wrong with this.


CUOMO: Especially for the No. 1 guy for a president who said, "I'm all about the swamp and cleaning up the swamp." This is the biggest alligator we have seen.

TOOBIN: Former senators, you know, John Breaux, Trent Lott, Evan Bayh, what do you think they're selling? Their policy expertise? Their --

CUOMO: Corey Lewandowsky. Went in with the campaign manager of Carson.

TOOBIN: Most of them don't get in trouble. They get rich.

GREGORY: Right. But you know what? To be fair, though, Jeffrey, there are a lot of people, former senators who are selling policy expertise.

CUOMO: Sure.

GREGORY: They are selling knowledge of the way the Senate works, or in some cases, it could be access to the administration. And a lot of lawyers get hired, too, because they've worked as prosecutors. They may know people in the Justice Department. Or they have a reputation that allows them to be heard. So those can be good hires.

What's -- what's outside the realm here is that here's his personal lawyer.

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: Who actually was on retainer to pay hush money to porn stars. And you've got AT&T wanting to make sure that they're close to the president.

I'm assuming that somehow he's going to be in the orbit to have some influence. That's how desperate they are to try to influence the president independently.

CUOMO: But it's also proof of one of the parameters of what's going on with the Russian probe. Which is this is a group of men mostly, right? Women, but mostly men, who are open for business. It's speculated. And that's why they went to the meeting to get information about Hillary Clinton, because they were open to the suggestion of let's do a deal about what we want. And this is the most obvious manifestation of it.

CAMEROTA: All right. David Gregory, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.

CUOMO: Escalating tensions between Iran and Israel. That's not nothing -- it's not something new. The question is, why now? We have protests in Tehran. Does this suggest that we are on the brink of something very, very ugly? We have live reports from Tehran and Jerusalem. A very big event coming up for the United States very soon, next.