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Record-Breaking Heat; Attacks on Mueller Probe; Giuliani Backpedaling Statement; Carson's Chief of Staff; Celtics Rout Cavaliers. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 14, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Indonesia just 24 hours after a family's weekend bombing spree of churches. The disturbing new details we're learning, next.


HILL: Another attack in Indonesia. At least four police officers and six civilians, injured in a motor bike explosion outside a police station. Four suicide bombers on two motor bikes carrying out the attack. Police say all are dead. It comes one day after investigators say a husband and wife used their children in a string of suicide attacks on three churches killing seven people.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: There's a report in "The New York Times" revealing that the Department of Education has effectively killed off a group of investigators looking into for-profit colleges. The team has gone from about a dozen lawyers at the end of the Obama administration to just three today. Current and former employees tell the paper, some of the shelved probes involved institutions where DeVos' top hires once worked. Obviously that's a huge conflict of interest and an ethical problem. However, a department spokeswoman told "The Times" in part, the team of investigators lost members due to attrition.

[06:35:17] HILL: Records-breaking heat and the potential for tropical weather could be hitting the South today. Let's get straight to meteorologist Chad Myers with a look at the forecast.

Chad, good morning.


It is hot across the south. Twenty-three cities may break record highs today. A lot of them were shattered yesterday as well.

Now, to the north of here, there is a front keeping the Northeast cool, the Midwest cool as well. And that front could give a little bit of severe weather right along that line right there. This is the air we were looking at, though. This is the heavy rain, the tropical stuff you talked about for Florida. Now, Florida's been in a drought for a while. We'll take the rain. We don't need to develop it into a storm and it doesn't look likely. Thirty percent chance of that turning into anything. But, nonetheless, we will see inches of rainfall in places that haven't seen a lot this spring. So we'll take it.

Chris, I even got my garden in this weekend. It has been so nice down here in the South.

CUOMO: You know, I'm happy for you. We have the opposite problem where I am. This cold and wet is doing real havoc to my planting boxes. You know, I try not to make too big a deal of it on the show, Chad --


CUOMO: But it's really rising to a level of urgency where people are talking.

MYERS: You're going to have to buy bigger tomato plants.

CUOMO: Yes, yes, I know. I'm going to have to buy them there. I know. That's cheating. I would never do that.

All right, I'll see you later, Chad.

MYERS: All right.

CUOMO: President Trump reportedly preparing for a war of words as the Mueller investigation reaches the one-year mark this week. What we know and the big question that still needs an answer, next.


[06:40:50] HILL: The special counsel's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election hitting its one-year mark this week and "The Washington Post" is reporting the president and his allies are now going on the attack as the Mueller probe hovers over the White House.

Here to discuss, CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN legal analyst and a former special assistant to Robert Mueller, Michael Zeldin.

As we look at this, preparing to go on the attack, I think one could argue that that's already happened.


HILL: And has been underway for some time. It is the president who complains the most, as we know, but who oftentimes keeps this investigation in the headlines through his tweets.

But it begs the question, Michael, as to whether or not the president's smear campaign, if we want to look at it that way, is actually working when it comes to public opinion. In our most recent polling, you can see, which was -- which was done just last week, you can actually see the approval rating from Robert Mueller's handling of this investigation has dropped. Is there a direct connection there, you believe?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there is and I think that that's the strategy. And I think that's the strategy that all people under investigation of political nature under take. Clinton did that. Nixon did that. In fact, if you look at the language of Mike Pence, Vice President Pence, when he said we're at the one-year mark, it's time to put this to bed, that's almost the exact same language that Richard Nixon used at his one-year mark. So, this is standard operating procedure.

The question is, as is the case of Richard Nixon, will this impact the audience of one, which is the special counsel. And I don't think it will. And so it may well be that public opinion waivers a little bit on this and it may be going down at the moment. But the question is, will he or won't he -- that is the president of the United States -- sit down with Robert Mueller. And if he won't, what will Mueller do in response? That's the issue on the next, you know, 30 to 90-day horizon that we have to keep our eye on most in my estimation.

AVLON: Yes, look, I mean, that's one of many issues. The other question is, now that we're at the one-year mark and the White House is unintentionally -- presumably unintentionally echoing Nixon here or talking points, at what point does the president lose his cool and his patience and follow through on the threat they've been invoking since really the week that Mueller was invoked (ph). It's -- now that we've got an anniversary, it's worth remembering that when Mueller was announced one year ago this week, his appointment was praised by Republicans. He was praised by Trump ally Newt Gingrich as being a man of rare honor and integrity. Devin Nunes, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, said it was the right decision at the right time and the right man.

So Republican talking points have changed because they've realized that despite the fact that Robert Mueller is a Republican, it does not mean he's going to be anything less than aggressive in his search for the truth and he's -- they're concerned that that doesn't necessarily favor Donald Trump. And that's why they're trying to discredit the probe.

CUOMO: So you've got a couple of obvious things here, right? The first thing is, the partisan playbook is the same for both teams. If you switch -- you know, this is such -- you know, this is so troubling to people who lived through Clinton. It's like, here we go again.

AVLON: Again.

CUOMO: These arguments, I've heard all of this before. And one thing that's at least factual that we should try to keep people's mind on, the idea that a year is a long time for a federal investigation is laughable. No disrespect because I know you were there with Mueller, but you guys never wrap up anything quickly. Michael Cohen would be thanking whatever he believes in that's bigger than himself. If this went a year, this probe, that's all, and then they were to somehow give him relief and say it's over, that would be like so short. It lasts years and years with you guys. Do you believe that a year in any way is a meaningful time mark? Michael?

ZELDIN: Well, for television it is, but, you know, for television it is, just not for -- CUOMO: So that's a no then, right?

ZELDIN: Yes, not -- well, you know, on average, these investigations, from really turning on the lights to turning them off is about two and a half to three years. And one thing you have to remember, of course, about turning on the light is that, in a case like this, as was the case in our investigation, it takes two or three months really to get up and running. You've got to get your staff, you've got to get your office space, you've got to get your clearances, you've got to set up your SCIF. All of these things take time. So, really, in terms of working day to day, Mueller's probably closer to the nine-month mark than he is the 12-month mark. And he's got a very complex investigation that's multi-facetted and multi-parties and international in its scope. So he's really a long way of --

[06:45:23] AVLON: Yes.

ZELDIN: You know, being able to say, this is what is conclusive in my findings and I'm ready to turn out my -- turn down my report and move forward. A long way away from that.

AVLON: And that's why -- that's why the White House saying it's been a year, it's time for this to end, is both predictable and meaningless. I mean Watergate's 26 months from the break-in to the resignation. I mean, you know, and then you've got fishing expeditions like Benghazi that last for multiple years and result in nothing. And then, of course, Whitewater and what results from that. Kenneth Starr takes even longer than Watergate. So this is -- that reality check's important simply to adjust expectations so people don't fall hook, line and sinker for the idea that this has gone on too long. It takes as long as it needs to take to get to the truth.

ZELDIN: Right.

HILL: Which also, of course, reminds us of the president being told multiple times by his team, you know, give -- being given deadlines of, oh, well, this is going to wrap up I think giving -- or by Christmas or in the next two weeks or it's --


HILL: It's amazing that that continues to go on.

Speaking of the president's counsel, Rudy Giuliani now backpedaling a little bit. Not even a little bit, a lot. So saying over the weekend, telling "The Huffington Post," in terms of the merger with AT&T, of course, the president denied the merger. Well then, when questioned about it again, he's the response. And then he goes on to clarify saying he didn't interfere with the Justice Department's case. He told me directly he didn't interfere.

Michael Zeldin, I mean, how troubling is this?

ZELDIN: Well, if you were his client, the answer should be, thank you very much for your service, it's time for me to move forward with actual attorneys who know the laws and the facts as it relates to my case who will actually help me. So, you know, if I were Trump, and he worked -- think about this, you know, in any lawyer/client relationship standard operating procedure, he'd fire Giuliani at this point. Giuliani has come onto the scene disastrously. Every time he opens his mouth, he hurts the president legally and politically. And I think it's just time for him to go and let the real lawyers on his team take over.

AVLON: The point trying -- Rudy was trying to make, obviously, is that Cohen may have been paid by AT&T, but it didn't succeed in achieving an outcome favorable to AT&T. The problem, of course, the time of this, comes as the judge is writing -- you know, is considering all opinions.

But, you know, Rudy's saying -- backtracking later and saying, you know, Trump directly told him he didn't interfere. I'm not sure how that's going to play. But he was trying to show there wasn't a quid pro quo -- there wasn't a successful lobbying effort by Cohen, which seems to be self-evident given the case went forward.

CUOMO: But, look, here's what we know. The ultimate measure of whether Rudy's doing a good job is whether his client's happy with him.


CUOMO: And to this point is fickle as President Trump could be in his personal feelings about people. He's happy with what Rudy is doing. He likes that he's on offense. He likes that he has the media scrambling. So let's see what happens this week.

All right, gentlemen, thank you very much.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has a new chief of staff. Does he have the experience to do the job? Why we are raising this question is because there's a provocative answer, next.


[06:52:23] HILL: The meteoric rise of a staffer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development is raising eyebrows. Thirty-two-year-old Andrew Hughes is now HUD Secretary Ben Carson's chief of staff. Some inside and outside the agency, however, are questioning his qualifications.

CNN's Rene March is live in Washington with more.

Rene, good morning.


Well, Hughes was recently promoted to chief of staff from his previous role as deputy chief of staff. And CNN's review of Hughes' prior experience and employment found that just eight months before joining HUD, he worked as a special projects coordinator for the University of Texas System and briefly as an Uber driver. Now, while at the university, Hughes managed social media and

websites. He compiled press releases and planned university events, as well as keeping abreast of any legislation regarding higher education.

Hughes also worked for six months on Ben Carson's presidential campaign. Effort is -- as part of the get out the vote campaign. And he worked in a similar capacity with Donald Trump's campaign as well.

Now, some observers, both Democrats and Republicans, they're startled at this because he lacks the relevant experience that many others who held that role had. For example, the chief of staff for HUD secretary Shaun Donovan during the Obama administration had worked for the New York City mayor, Bloomberg, in two capacities, first as a senior policy adviser to the deputy mayor of economic development and rebuilding, and later as chief of staff. And we also looked at chiefs of staff during the Bush years. They had experience on Capitol Hill as well.

Many prior appointees who I spoke to, who used to work at HUD, tell me that most had experience in at least two of three categories, policy making, federal government and HUD-related matters.

Why does this matter? Because millions of low income and elderly people rely on HUD.

I do want to get in, we reached out to HUD about Hughes and they say that they stand behind him. That they are -- that Ben Carson is extremely competent in his capabilities as chief of staff.

Back to you.


CUOMO: And, of course, the position has even more gravitas because of Carson's lack of experience with what he's doing right now.

MARSH: Right.

CUOMO: Appreciate the insight. Thank you very much. Always good to see you.

All right, did you watch the game? LeBron and the Cavs. Five-game winning streak to Boston. Guess what happened? Nothing pretty for the king. How the Celtics shut down the Cavs in the "Bleacher Report," next.


[06:59:08] The Celtics ain't scared of LeBron James and the past. We saw that in game one of the Eastern Conference finals.

Lindsay Czarniak has more in the "Bleacher Report."

We knew it was going to be tough, and it was proof positive.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I think it's true that we can say that this was a statement win for the Celtics. But be warned, you guys know, I mean if anyone can rebound and motivate after a frustrating loss, it's LeBron James. So game two in Boston tomorrow night, I believe, just got a lot more interesting.

Still, it's remarkable how the Celtics stopped James last night. They demonstrate how that team chemistry everybody's talking about to make that difference, it overpower the Cavaliers in every way. Boston went on a 17-0 run in the first quarter and at one point led by 29. They held LeBron to a playoff low 15 points, winning huge. LeBron James isn't worried about the Cavaliers chances in the series.

[07:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: I've been down 0-1. I've been down 0-2. I've been down before in the post-season. But for me, there's never no level of concern no matter how bad I played tonight with seven turnovers. Just as confident going into a series no matter if it's a 0-0 series or I'm down 0-1.