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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Trump Lawyer Rudy Giuliani Contradicts White House Again; WH Won't Apologize For Aide's Cruel McCain Joke; Acid Rain And Ballistic Rocks Threaten Hawaii; NASA Planning To Send Chopper On Mars Exploration; Smartphones Capture Reality Of Racial Prejudice In U.S.; White House Says Justice Department, Not Trump Denied Merger Deal; Iran's Leader Trolls Trump with "Fire and Fury" Picture; Rand Paul Says Gina Haspel's Lack of Candor is Disqualifying; One Week to Go Before the Royal Wedding. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 12, 2018 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:00:00]

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: -- safari park in the Netherlands. Apparently, they didn't get the memo that you're not supposed to get out of your vehicle while visiting a park.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: So, this was according to the "Huffington Post," the family got out of their vehicle to take photographs when the cheetah started moving in. Fortunately, here, no one was injured.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rudy Giuliani at it again. Reportedly says President Trump blocked the proposed AT&T/Time Warner merger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is saying it's not me, it's the DOJ. It's the antitrust division. Rudy is saying the opposite. He's saying the president decided to do this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump does not like CNN. He doesn't like CNN's parent company, Time Warner, which is who AT&T is trying to buy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not an apology for what Kelly Sadler said about Senator McCain.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to comment on an internal staff meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president put his foot down and said you will not apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't understand what kind of environment you're working in where that would be acceptable, and you can come to work the next day and still have a job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rocks in the steep crater walls are falling into that, and that's creating gas explosions. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should just let mother nature do its thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Good morning to you. He's a drama machine. That's how one biographer is describing the president's new lawyer this morning and drama is exactly what Rudy Giuliani is causing for the White House.

PAUL: Less than one month into his new role, Giuliani is now contradicting the federal government and his boss calling into question the independence of the Justice Department. Will he have to walk back these comments as he's been forced to do many times already this month.

CNN's Abby Phillip is live in Washington. So, Abby, walk us through this. What exactly did Giuliani say and how does it compare to what the president has said?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this all began when Giuliani was trying to defend the president against claims he was unduly influenced by his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who had been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by private corporations, including by AT&T, to help them with their lobbying in Washington.

AT&T in particular wanted Cohen to help them -- help guide them through this process of getting approval for the acquisition of Time Warner, CNN's parent company. But Giuliani, instead of toeing the White House's line on this for months which for months had been that the president was not at all involved in this decision, he said this to "The Huffington Post."

"Whatever lobbying was done didn't reach the president," Giuliani said. He added, "He did drain the swamp. The president denied the merger. They didn't get the result they wanted." Now the key phrase here is the president denied the merger.

The president, we know, has been pretty vocal about this AT&T/Time Warner merger. He's also been vocal about CNN, which is a subsidiary of Time Warner, who he has called fake news. Listen to what he said at a recent rally about the issue of this merger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: AT&T is buying Time Warner and, thus, CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: So, the president there seemed to claim that this was about antitrust, about reducing the amount of concentration of power in the marketplace and also back in November, Raj Shah, the principal deputy press secretary for the White House also denied in a statement categorically that the president had spoken to anyone at the Department of Justice about the merger.

And he added that no one in the White House was authorized to talk about this merger with the Justice Department as well. So, the question remains right now, is Rudy Giuliani out on a limb, or did he reveal something that perhaps he wasn't supposed to, which is that the president did have a hand in the decision of the Justice Department to block this merger, which is now still in the court of law right now -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: Yes, still in legal limbo to some degree. Abby Philip, thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, Rudy Giuliani has been on the job for less than a month, but he continues to fumble here causing these controversies. Let's count them off. First, revealing the president reimbursed his lawyer for paying off an adult film actress and raising questions about when the president knew about the hush money deal.

Days later he announced on live television that three Americans detained in North Korea would be released that day. Not only were they not released for almost a week, but Giuliani jumped an announcement by the officials who should have announced something like that.

Last week, Giuliani hinted the president would rip up the Iran deal and call for regime change, comments that the U.S. defense secretary refused to defend and now we've got the merger comments.

Either Giuliani just accidentally told the truth and contradicted the White House, or he messed up his facts and made his boss look bad again.

[08:05:07] And the president will have to, I guess, come out and say he's still getting his facts straight. Still waiting on a response from the White House.

PAUL: CNN political reporter, Rebecca Berg with us now. Let's pick it up there, Rebecca. Do you expect that we will hear from the president about this?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we haven't on many of these issues. Oftentimes, we'll outsource this to Sarah Sanders at the White House press podium, but we might. I mean, we know that the president likes to talk to the press occasionally unexpectedly in some of these informal gaggles before or after events.

So, we might hear directly from the president on this. But, of course, the main question here is, is he happy with Rudy Giuliani and the message that he is out there promoting, or does the president believe that Rudy is fumbling -- to use the word, the victory use, in his job? And is there some frustration there.

We don't totally know the answer to that yet, but they have a really interesting relationship, Rudy Giuliani and the president. They're very simpatico in so many ways. That may give Rudy Giuliani a longer leash than some other allies of the president. PAUL: Good point. We talked to Joey Jackson, former defense attorney, earlier this morning. And he said there's a real problem with this statement that he made that the president denied the merger because the president has said otherwise.

And Joey said, the Department of Justice is to protect the people. It's supposed to protect the president or the president's whims. Do you think the Department of Justice has a responsibility to speak up about this?

BERG: That would not surprise me really because this is their reputation on the line. They are supposed to be representing this as an independent arbiter. Basically, affirm that the president didn't have a role in this process, and so I would not be surprised to hear that from the Department of Justice at some point.

Just reaffirming that they operated independent of the president on this decision. But, of course, that would only be the case if that is true. And Rudy Giuliani suggesting that the president did have some role in this.

Now of course, it's possible that Rudy does not know what he's talking about on this issue, that he was just riffing, but we don't know yet the full story. So, it would make sense at some point for the Department of Justice to address this.

PAUL: This is part of what's interesting, though. Rudy Giuliani said that he came on board specifically to help the president with the Mueller investigation. Victor just went through from everything that he has spoken on thus far, the problems it's created already. But the president has to be greenlighting these interviews that Rudy Giuliani is doing, isn't he?

BERG: Right. And the president when he was asked a few days ago about Rudy Giuliani and what he's been saying in some of these interviews, he was supportive. He said, you know, he's learning. He's easing into the job, and he will get the message straight.

And so, you hear that support from the president for Rudy Giuliani and we know that President Trump likes to have his allies out there on cable news. He watches a lot of cable news, of course, and likes to see them out there talking about him, promoting his agenda.

It's no surprise that he would want to see Rudy Giuliani on tv. What is surprising is that Rudy Giuliani is taking that leash that the president has given him and using it to talk about issues completely unrelated to the Mueller probe and of course, getting off message in the process.

PAUL: I want to ask you real quickly about something people are still talking about today, Kelly Sadler in the White House mentioning that John McCain, Senator John McCain is dying anyway in the middle of a conversation that they were having there.

I want to listen to the president here, what he was saying earlier this week when he was in Indiana. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: They were saying, he's going to get us into a nuclear war. He's going to get us into a nuclear war, and you know what gets you into nuclear wars? And you know what gets you into other wars? Weakness. Weakness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Weakness. That's why I wanted to revisit that. Everybody, many, many people asking why is the president, the White House, somebody not apologizing for this comment that the White House is not denying? Is there a sense that the president sees an apology as a weakness and that's why we're not hearing one?

BERG: That would be consistent, Christi, with what we've seen from the president in the past. On the few occasions that you've had some of the press secretaries for the White House apologize or seem to apologize from the podium to the press corps, we've heard reports afterward that the president was upset about that.

Because you're absolutely right, he doesn't like to show weakness. He doesn't like to suggest that he made a mistake or there was a misstep by his White House and that's likely the case here as well.

But this is a situation where it just comes down to basic civility and humanity that the president and the White House would apologize in this case. But not seeing that from this president, not seeing that from this White House.

[08:10:09] and, of course, it's been an unusual White House in many ways. This is just another way, I suppose.

PAUL: All right. Rebecca Berg, always good to see you. Thank you.

BERG: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is backtracking on the comment he made that President Trump is embarrassed by the Russia probe. Kelly later clarified that he meant to say the president was distracted by the investigation.

All right. First, listen to what Kelly originally told NPR. This was an interview that aired on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF (via telephone): There may not be a cloud but certainly the president is somewhat embarrassed, frankly, when world leaders come in. The first couple of minutes of every conversation might revolve around that kind of thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: And just hours later, Kelly dialed back the comments while speaking in the Rose Garden. He told reporters the investigation is unfair.

An imminent threat to the island of Hawaii. Scientists warn that another volcanic eruption could blast ballistic rocks the size of a lawn mower into the air. CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar has an update for us.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and Victor, if those weren't big enough concerns, you also have the concern for vog and acid rain. We'll talk about what those are, coming up.

BLACKWELL: Still to come -- social media and smartphones are capturing the plight of African-Americans many face on a daily basis. Now the nation is tuning in. Why my next guest says being black in America is really hard? He calls it living while black. We'll talk about that just ahead.

PAUL: Also -- at this time next week, you'll be watching the royal wedding. There's a lot of anticipation about the big day for Prince Harry and actress, Meghan Markle. Later this hour, we'll take a look at how they may change perceptions of the royal family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world's view of the British monarchy is probably going to be determined more by Harry and Meghan than by William and Kate. Certainly, by Charles and Camilla. That's a very unusual situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:10]

BLACKWELL: President Trump has declared a major disaster in the state of Hawaii. We're also getting report that another volcanic eruption threatens the big island. Geologists warn the Kilauea Volcano could blast ballistic rocks the size of a golf cart into the sky in the next few weeks.

PAUL: We spoke with an official from Hawaii's Police Department earlier about what things look like on the ground right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN RICHMOND, HAWAII POLICE SPOKESMAN: I'm about a mile from the crater of Kilauea right now and we just had another 3.0 earthquake. We've had a lot of those throughout the day. The 15 fissures that have opened up on the Hilo side of the island have stopped with the lava flow but there's still a lot of steam and gas coming out of those fissures. Up here at the summit, the question is when will that explosion occur if it occurs? And so, we're on pins and needles waiting to see what happens with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: Now authorities told residents they can return to their homes to collect their belongings, but they warn that they may have to leave again at a moment's notice. CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar, joins us now with the update. What are we looking at there, Allison?

CHINCHAR: This is if you ever wanted to know what the inside of a crater of a volcano looked like but in a safe manner, this would be the way to do it. This is thermal imaging. This is back on April 23rd before all this really started. All the bright colors is the lava.

Notice as I put this into play, the lava starts to shrink. Less of the orange, less of the pink. It's retreating. It's basically going back down inside of the volcano. So why is this important and, really, why is this even happening?

OK, so when you have the volcano, you have all of that that sits. That magma that sits inside the volcano. But if we bring this up to show you the inside, keep in mind the water table or groundwater there.

So, as that lava begins to retreat back down, all the rocks being held up on the sides you collapse back in. When all of that makes contact with the groundwater, pressure builds up and the pressure has to be released so everything comes back out.

But this next eruption that we anticipate, this will be a little different because in addition to the ash, toxic gas and lava that came out the last time, you now have all of those rocks. The problem is those rocks aren't the size of soccer balls or golf balls. They are much larger. They are more like boulders.

They are the size of your lawn mower, golf cart. These are tremendously large and can cause a lot of damage. But there's also other threats to keep in mind. We talked about this, vog, which is volcanic smog as well as acid rain.

We talked about the biggest concern with acid rain is not just marine life, but it can contaminate water supplies by leeching other metals, including lead out of the plumbing even in your own home or business.

But the vog, this is the one that's most of concern, Victor and Christ, because you can't really see it. It's that sulfur dioxide gas that makes it so lethal. Now technically vog is comprise of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and basically water.

OK, the water vapor that's in the air. It reacts with the sunlight when they all come together and creates that form of air pollution. Here's the thing that you need to note. In small doses, this can cause breathing problems for people who have never had breathing problems their whole lives.

But in high levels, which is what we've been seeing, they've had levels that high, readings taken by firefighters there, it can be fatal. And that's a big concern for folks on the big island.

BLACKWELL: Wow. All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Allison. All righty. We'll keep you posted on what's happening there today and throughout the next few weeks as well.

Let's talk about NASA because they are planning to send a helicopter to the red planet. Part of the agency's Mars rover mission that launches in July of 2020.

[08:20:00] BLACKWELL: So, this chopper weighs just under four pounds. Its fuselage is about the size of a softball. The twin blades will rotate about ten times faster than a helicopter on earth in order for it to get lift off in that Martian air. NASA hopes to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier than air vehicles on Mars.

PAUL: Somebody wants to go to Mars.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: They want to set foot there, I think.

All righty. Still to come -- napping in a dorm at Yale, sitting inside a Starbucks, shopping at a Nordstrom, should be pretty uneventful experiences, don't you think? Well, our next guest says it is what happens to some African-Americans during these everyday experiences that illustrates why being black in America is hard.

BLACKWELL: Plus, everyone is trying to figure out President Trump's playbook including Iran's supreme leader. Look closely at what the Ayatollah Khamenei is reading here, Michael Wolfe's "Fire & Fury." We'll have more on the story behind this photo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: So glad to have you with us today. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. Whether you are napping at Yale in a dorm room or shopping at a Nordstrom store or just sitting inside a local Starbucks, smart phones, and social media have really given the nation some insight into racial profiling that some African-Americans endure on a basis that you wouldn't expect.

Maybe more regular than you would expect. My next guest's most recent article says these are another set of reminders of the challenges of being black in America. He joins me now, editor of Philadelphia's chief, "Philly" magazine, Ernest Owens. Ernest, good morning to you.

ERNEST OWENS, EDITOR, "G PHILLY" MAGAZINE: Good morning to you. Thank you for having me on.

BLACKWELL: So, first, let's start with why we're seeing these videos. Look, cell phone video, it's not new anymore. We've had it for about a decade. Social media, these platforms, we've had those for about a decade, but what we've seen over the last 12 months or so seems to be the spate of videos. You know why we're seeing so many now? OWENS: I think because people are finally realizing that, you know, unfortunately, black people won't be believed unless we have video footage and we're seeing people share this on social media at rates that are unprecedented.

And unfortunately, there's a bitter sweetness to it all. You know, in some sense, this is the proof that many people, specifically white people, have needed to understand decades of ongoing racial profiling in this country.

And in some sense, it is, you know, bitter because once again we have to endure black trauma porn. I'm personally as a 26-year-old black gay man who has been throughout my entire life profiled and disgusted in basically terrorized by seeing these images, these ongoing images of black and brown people, specifically being targeted by people who are carrying out acts of white supremacy as if it is, you know, something that is routine and cool and hip.

BLACKWELL: You talk about having to provide proof. I want to just pull up a line from your piece on cnn.com in which you write, listen to black people and give their experiences the same level of belief you'd give others who don't have to provide such traumatic documentation to support their claims.

And I wonder, is the outrage, the sympathy, the remorse that some will feel for these specific instances and interactions, is that transferrable to other people who will share their story but don't have video proof?

OWENS: Well, what we're seeing is that there are many people who have shared these experiences. Personally, I will stopped and frisked at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, when I attended there back in 2010.

And when I told some of my white peers and my colleagues what was going on, a lot of them said, you know they couldn't believe it, as if I could lie about those experiences. People have a problem with listening and believing black people without us having to show tweets and pictures and images.

So, unfortunately, what we're seeing is the media is basically picking up on these images and sharing them. For some people, it takes that for them to believe it's real. Look, unfortunately, we live in a society where, you know, black people are not given the proper humanity and respect.

And that requires trust and belief in their experiences, even though we have had centuries long documentation and prove that there is racial disparity in this country. And yet for some reason, we're still doing show and tell in 2018, which is despicable.

BLACKWELL: All right. I want you to listen to Kelly Feif Marshall and Donisha Prendergast. They are two of the three who say they were racially profiled last Monday when they were leaving an Airbnb in Rialto, California, and a neighbor called police because she said she was scared after they didn't wave to her. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY FYFFE-MARSHALL, AIRBNB GUEST DETAINED BY RIALTO, CALIFORNIA POLICE: Once the sergeant came, the mood and the energy changed completely. He didn't believe anything we were saying. He didn't believe the AirBnb app that we had shown. He didn't believe the landlord that we had called and the picture.

They called the landlord and got a DMV picture and showed it to us and we all agreed, yes, that's her. And the sergeant said, well, of course, they would say that. So, at that point it just felt like we were -- yes, everything was against us.

DONISHA PRENDERGAST, AIRBNB GUEST DETAINED BY RIALTO, CALIFORNIA POLICE: I didn't feel served or protected in those moments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Is there any evidence that police departments across the country are taking into consideration the videos we're seeing, the stories that come out after all of these, and I guess changed their degree of empathy and involvement with people who are the subjects of these call to police for simple things as checking out of an Airbnb, taking a nap in a dorm room, if they're changing based on what we're seeing and hearing repeatedly?

OWENS: Unfortunately, I don't think so. You know we have seen officers across the country have evidence that they have hidden. They have just -- you know, just thrown out, not taken into consideration. And unfortunately what I want to also note is that people are saying -- you know, white people use -- under this idea that they're in fear. But I don't think there's fear at all.

I think that people are taking advantage of the disparities of distrust in the criminal justice system and this is an act -- this is a hate crime. You know. You know, black people are innocent. And in many ways when we see these types of routine acts of napping and humane acts of sitting at a Starbucks without purchasing something for two minutes, what we're realizing is that there are white people that are yielding and leveraging their white power and their privilege to basically create these acts to terrorize black people.

And if you notice, this whole idea of, I'm going to call the cops, that is to incite fear. And it's a way to leverage this power and a way to terrorize black people which in my opinion is a hate crime. And I think that this is an act of, you know, automatic hate that's targeting people based on their race without any merit, without any proof, and we have to really start talking about what are the repercussions for white people who choose to abuse their privilege in ways that will wreak terror and harm on other people in marginalized communities, especially those who are innocent.

BLACKWELL: We also have to remember --

OWENS: That is the conversation. BLACKWELL: We also have to remember there is not a single rule for

every black person or white person which I think these videos highlight. And so it's impossible to brush any single race, black or white, with one brush.

OWENS: Well, if we notice the pattern, I mean, no one was making generalizations but we have to look at the pattern of behavior.

BLACKWELL: I hear you on that.

OWENS: You know --

BLACKWELL: I hear you on that.

OWENS: These things are happening and people are put in positions where they're vulnerable.

BLACKWELL: We are low on time here. I just wanted to make sure --

OWENS: And in this instance, the violence has to stop --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: That we pointed that out.

OWENS: Yes, I mean, no one is thinking that. But when we talk about white supremacy, it's very clear that that is a one-way street. There's no both sides to white supremacy. Black people cannot be racist --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Yes. That wasn't my point. That wasn't my point that there's white supremacy one way street.

OWENS: I understand.

BLACKWELL: Listen, go to CNN --

OWENS: But can you agree that people are using and abusing the systems of police misconduct is in many ways an act of white supremacy? Like people calling the police on black people that are innocent and racially profiling.

BLACKWELL: Here's what I'll do.

OWENS: That is truly a pattern of behavior.

BLACKWELL: I will tell people to go to CNN.com and read your piece so they can get more of your opinion there.

OWENS: Absolutely. And follow me on Twitter.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ernest Owens.

OWENS: Thank you. BLACKWELL: Thank you so much.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We are now hearing from Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, regarding a statement that Rudy Giuliani said to the "Huffington Post" that has a lot of people wondering what's going on.

First of all let's listen to Giuliani here. He said in the "Huffington Post," "Whatever lobbying was done didn't reach the press." He's referring to the AT&T merger possibility. He went on to say, "He did," meaning the president, "drain the swamp. The president denied the merger. They didn't get the result they wanted."

Here's why that was important because the Department of Justice is supposed to be making these decisions, not the president. Well, Sarah Sanders this morning, White House press secretary, telling CNN that the statement from the White House last year is correct that the Department of Justice is the one that denied this deal.

She's referring to a statement that was made back on November 8th, 2017 by deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah. And that statement at the time was the president did not speak with the attorney general about this matter and no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter.

So again, coming from the White House this morning, contradicting what Rudy Giuliani has said to the "Huffington Post" that the president denied this merger with AT&T and Time Warner, she's now saying that statement from before is correct, that the Department of Justice denied that deal. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:39:01] BLACKWELL: All right. The breaking news in from the White House, now responding to Rudy Giuliani's comments to the "Huffington Post" that President Trump denied the AT&T and Time Warner merger.

PAUL: Yes, Abby Philip with us.

Abby, what your hearing?

PHILLIP: Well, good morning. The White House is responding finally to Rudy Giuliani's comments last night. I asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, to explain the difference between what Giuliani said, which is that the president denied the AT&T/Time Warner merger and a statement that was issued by the White House in November that said this.

"The president did not speak with the attorney general about the matter and no one -- no White House official was authorized to speak with the Justice Department on the matter." Those statements are as opposite as they can be, and Sarah Sanders said to me this morning that that original statement saying that the president had no involvement is correct and that the Justice Department was the one who denied the merger. Now I should say here that this is sort of, in some ways, a little bit of a technically. [08:40:02] The president made it clear that long ago that he was

opposed to this merger. That was pretty well known at the time but the White House had pretty specifically denied that he had any involvement in the decision-making process. That the government went into when deciding to sue to stop the merger.

So Rudy Giuliani when he made his comments last night appeared to have made them both without, you know, toeing the White House line on this and possibly without knowledge of the actual facts behind the situation.

Remember, Giuliani is not a member of the Trump administration. He is simply the president's lawyer on the issue of the special counsel, an outside lawyer. And while he is a confidante of the president's, there's no indication that he had any knowledge of what was going on in the government at the time back in November when these decisions were being made.

So the White House is making it pretty clear here that what Giuliani is saying is not correct as far as they are concerned. They are saying this was a Justice Department decision and that President Trump did not put his finger on the scale in the government to specifically ask for this merger to be denied.

PAUL: All right. Abby Philip, thank you for the clarification this morning. We appreciate it.

So we have this just in as well. An Iranian commander is saying the U.S. decision to pull out from the nuclear deal is threatening Israel's security and, quote, "could speed up annihilation of Israel."

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, it looks like the supreme leader of Iran is trolling President Trump. The ayatollah was spotted at a book fair checking out a Farsi edition of Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."

PAUL: Not just that, he shared the picture himself on Instagram.

BLACKWELL: Yes. CNN senior international correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is live from Tehran.

Fred, whether or not the ayatollah is really trolling the president, he certainly wanted people to see him with that book for a reason.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Oh, yes, you're absolutely right. I mean, Victor, he was at a book fair in Tehran checking out obviously a lot of literature at that book fair. And that's the one book that he was allowing himself to be pictured with "Fire and Fury."

Whether or not he might have been checking out his arch nemesis, President Trump's ways at the White House or anything else is really unclear but it certainly of course comes after a week where there's absolutely increased tension between the U.S. and Iran especially after President Trump pulled out of that nuclear agreement which has a lot of people here in Tehran very, very concerned. It's interesting that you guys just mentioned that Iranian commander,

the military commander who said that it could be very bad for Israel, the U.S. pulling out. Also calling that decision irrational. Of course that also comes after a week after we had that skirmish, that altercation between Israel and Iran in Syria. So things heating up there as well.

And just from the perspective from here on the ground, because we've been here on the ground, guys, this entire week, there's a lot of anger, especially from religious conservatives, from hardliners. We saw that yesterday when we were on the ground at Friday prayers. People burning the American flag, stepping on the American flag. But there's even more concern among many Iranians that their country could be even more economically isolated than it was in the past -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Fred Pleitgen for us there in Tehran. Fred, thank you.

PAUL: You know, not everybody is on board with Gina Haspel's nomination for CIA director. But there are already some prominent Republicans saying they're not going to vote for her. Our global affairs expert has a few things to say about it. And that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:48:48] BLACKWELL: Gina Haspel's nomination as CIA director is boiling down to essentially one key issue. Where does she stand on torture. In 2003, Haspel headed a secret CIA detention facility where an al Qaeda suspect was waterboarded. And now lawmakers want to know if she would do it again. Republican Senator John McCain is calling on his colleagues to reject Haspel's nomination. And now Senator Rand Paul is indicating that he will not vote for her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Torturing people is immoral and something we shouldn't do. It's against the Geneva Convention. It's against American principles, and I'm against that, and I don't think we should reward someone who's involved with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Joining me now, David Rohde, CNN global affairs analyst and online news director for the "New Yorker."

David, good morning to you.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Good morning.

BLACKWELL: All right. So Senator Paul wrote a few hundred words for Politico magazine in which he writes about Haspel's lack of candor, saying that she could declassify some of the details of that period but she won't. Set up his argument and what's her response?

ROHDE: What he's referring to is a separate torture program that went on for years. And that was taking detainees and sending them to governments that the CIA knew would torture them. There was a Canadian citizen who's taken to Syria, a regime the U.S. now, you know, assails and said should be out of power.

[08:50:03] But he was taken to Syria, brutally tortured by the Syrians. And it was sort of, you know, torture by proxy. Egypt has been accused of doing this. Many other countries. And so Paul is acting for her to declassify that information to come clean and she's not doing that. And the really important, you know, principle here is that Congress has to have oversight over the CIA.

She can, you know, share the details in private. They don't have to be made, you know, public but, you know, he has a right as a senator to demand to know what the CIA is doing and what she did herself during that period.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about his vote specifically because Rand Paul seemingly of late has been a hold out on many issues until he isn't. He wasn't going to vote for Mike Pompeo to be the next secretary of State and then the last minute he changed his mind. So I wonder, is this different for Paul?

ROHDE: We'll see, I mean, this is where he damages himself politically. Like he's, you know, an iconoclast. He sort of talks about this libertarian and he's been very forceful and I would applaud him on opposing torture. So will he actually back this up? If he's simply doing this to get attention in the media and then he supports her nomination anyway, I think that does undermine his credibility.

But it's unusual. McCain, given his own experience of torture as a prisoner in Vietnam, it's understandable. I don't think his vote will be shifting but, you know, we'll have to see if Rand Paul really sticks to his guns here.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Those who were skeptical of Haspel said that she's giving the right answers or at least she gave the right answers on the legal question, but did not answer about the morality of waterboarding or what some call enhanced interrogations.

To what degree is Senator McCain's urging of the other members to reject her nomination weighing on those members? What are you learning about that?

ROHDE: I think -- you know, it's really the sort of -- the Republicans that are in states that are not blue or red. Joe Manchin, the Democrat from West Virginia is facing re-election, he has said he will support Haspel because he's afraid of, you know, what he'll face in November. But it's interesting. She was very evasive in her questions. John Brennan, the Obama administration's last CIA director, he said torture was immoral.

He was very outspoken in saying it was wrong, it was un-American. Haspel didn't say that. She gave legalistic answers. It was so puzzling to me because I think declaring torture immoral, you know, wouldn't really hurt her chances. So I don't know why she was so evasive. I don't know why she's not talking about these renditions that Senator Paul raised again where prisoners were taken to other countries and tortured there essentially on our behalf.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll see if she gets the numbers. David Rohde, thanks so much.

ROHDE: Thank you.

PAUL: All right. The clock ticking down for the royal wedding. There's a peek into the untold stories of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal romance. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:57:03] PAUL: Well, listen, tonight, CNN's Alisyn Camerota shares the untold stories of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Harry wants to keep his relationship with Meghan private as long as he can. But just four months after that first date, the news is out. And the paparazzi pounced once again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, there was a photographer who got inside Meghan's house in Toronto. The paparazzi were camping on her mother's front lawn and following, you know, and harassing all members of her family, anybody really who knew her.

CAMEROTA: Despite starring in a TV show, Meghan is relatively unknown. Now the British press wants to know who she is and if she's fit for the royal family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was a woman who has been married, people fascinated by the fact that she was divorced. People fascinated by her background, her acting, a career woman, how would that work being with someone in the royal family, that's not what we have seen before.

CAMEROTA: They also have not seen someone biracial dating a member of the royal family. And some of the conversation is blatantly racist.

AFUA HIRSCH, JOURNALIST: There was one newspaper headline saying, "Straight Out of Compton," suggesting that she was from a gang ridden neighborhood.

CAMEROTA: Afua Hirsch is a journalist and recently wrote a book about race, identity and belonging in Britain.

HIRSCH: Would Harry be dropping around for tea in gangland, which was very clearly racially loaded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A whole another issue exploded, which was the number of rather horrific social media racist comments began to flood in from the darkest, vilest corners of the internet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: CNN's special report "A ROYAL MATCH: HARRY AND MEGHAN" airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

PAUL: Followed by another special, by the way, "DIANA, CHASING A FAIRY TALE." That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: And in the build-up to that royal wedding next week in London, Lifetime has already made a movie. Already.

PAUL: Of course they have.

BLACKWELL: Could they just get married first? A movie about the romance.

PAUL: I know. But I had a chance to talk with the executive producers of the show, Michelle Weiss and Meredith Finn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're the modern version of the royal couple. Meghan Markle is American. She's an actress. She's very good at being on camera. And Harry has always been so many people's favorite.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We found actors who are, you know, both, you know, convincing, playing the parts they're playing, but also who, you know, who are good actors. We hope it works both as telling this fascinating, you know, can't believe it's true story of a very famous couple, but we hope it works just on the level of romance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The movie turned out well. We think people are just going to have a great time watching it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: You can catch the full interview with them tomorrow on "NEW DAY" with us starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern, by the way.

BLACKWELL: Well, now it has to work. There's a Lifetime movie.

PAUL: There's a movie.

BLACKWELL: You've got to stay together. Yes.

PAUL: Now it has to work, yes.

BLACKWELL: Now that's it for us, we'll see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for an hour of newsroom.

PAUL: Yes. Don't go anywhere. "SMERCONISH" is with you right now.