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Mueller's Team Says It Won't Indict Sitting President; Trump Blames Dems for Immigration Laws. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 17, 2018 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Actually, that sounds fun. Ambassador Derek, thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

[07:00:07] CAMEROTA: Good to talk to you.

Tomorrow I will be live from Windsor to preview the royal wedding here on NEW DAY. And then on Saturday, we will be live for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's special day. Royal wedding coverage starts Saturday morning at 4 a.m. Eastern on CNN. OK? So set your alarm clock.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you "CNN TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He told me that Mueller's team informed Trump's team that the Justice Department can't indict a sitting president.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It's an issue that has never been resolved. I happen to think that he could be indicted.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Meeting the people associated with the Russian government is never a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think anybody really believes that he did not tell Donald Trump about this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would never take anything unsubstantiated to him. It's a waste of his time.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This boy needs to take himself something that helps memory loss, because he's got a serious problem. Either that, or he's lying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's debt to Michael Cohen is reportable and needed to be reported on the form.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I don't believe it had to be disclosed at all. Doesn't think it was an expenditure.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: I don't understand. How does somebody reimburse a payment and not know about it? (END VIDEOTAPE)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY as we mark one year of the Mueller investigation. Rudy Giuliani says the special counsel informed President Trump's lawyers that they cannot indict a sitting president. At issue, giving insight into Trump's legal strategy, kind of, if he faces a subpoena.

CAMEROTA: And new details surfacing about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving members of the Trump campaign and Russians. The Senate Judiciary Committee has just released more than 2,000 pages of documents, raising questions about what the president knew about this.

So we have it all covered for you. Let's start with CNN's Jessica Schneider. She is live in Washington with our top story -- Jessica.


Rudy Giuliani this morning looking to draw clear lines in the legal landscape. He says that since the special counsel has no authority to indict a sitting president, the only option from this probe would be to write a report that could then be referred to Congress for any possible impeachment proceedings.

And while Giuliani is offering new insight into the special counsel's strategy, new documents are now revealing even more details from that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, telling CNN that Special Counsel Mueller's team does not believe they can charge a sitting president with a crime under Justice Department guidelines. Giuliani saying, "All they get to do is write a report. They can't indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling. They acknowledged that to us."

Giuliani later indicating that Mr. Trump's legal team may use this reasoning to justify potentially refusing to grant Mueller an interview with the president.

GIULIANI: What we're going to do is we're going to see what kind of legal remedies are available to us, including, if they subpoena us, challenge the subpoena. The same reason they can't indict him, they can't issue a subpoena to him.

SCHNEIDER: But the issue has never been tested in court. And it remains unclear if Mueller's team, which declined to comment, would try to challenge the longstanding guidelines.

BLUMENTHAL: The president is not above the law. And an indictment, if that's the course that Robert Mueller chooses to go, I believe would be upheld by the courts. SCHNEIDER: This as more than 2,000 pages of newly-released documents

from the Senate Judiciary Committee shed light on the infamous June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower.

According to his testimony, British publicist Rob Goldstone, who arranged the meeting, thought Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya had a smoking gun against Hillary Clinton. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., celebrated the prospect.

A Russian lobbyist present for the meeting told senators Trump Jr. kicked off the meeting by telling his Russian guests, "So I believe you have some information for us." But multiple attendees told investigators that they ultimately left empty-handed.

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: It was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell. It was literally just a waste of 20 minutes, which was a shame.

SCHNEIDER: Goldstone testifying that President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, appeared, quote, "infuriated" when the Russian lawyer focused on Russian sanctions, telling her, "I really have no idea what you're talking about. Could you please focus a bit more and maybe just start again?"

In his testimony, Donald Trump Jr. admitted that he was interested in listening to information about Hillary Clinton, contradicting the initial story put out by the White House that the meeting was about adoptions. Asked about the president's involvement in crafting that statement, Don Jr. telling investigators he may have commented through Hope Hicks, something the White House later conceded.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president weighed in, as any father would.

SCHNEIDER: Donald Jr. also repeatedly testified that he does not recall telling his father about the meeting. Phone records show that he called a blocked number before and after arranging the meeting and again on the day it occurred.

[07:05:03] Democrats note that former campaign aide Corey Lewandowsky previously testified that candidate Trump's primary residence has a blocked number. And two days before the meeting, then-candidate Trump teased a speech about Clinton that never happened.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we're going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you're going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.


SCHNEIDER: And today is the one-year anniversary of when Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel. It does remain to be seen if the president will comment on this, since there has been some confusion over whether they will hold a previously planned news conference with the NATO secretary. It was on the NATO secretary's schedule, but it is not right now on the White House schedule.

Now, Rudy Giuliani, though, says he plans to use this one-year anniversary to push the special counsel to disclose how much money is being spent and also to actively begin negotiating any possible presidential interview -- Chris and Alisyn.

CUOMO: All right. Appreciate it. Let's bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

We know this much. If the best argument you have is that this is costing too much money in the overall span of budget they spend on things. You've got a weak case. But in terms of the political implications of one year, now, we know by precedent standards, one year is nothing. But what does it mean politically?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is a dark cloud over the presidency over President Trump. I think he has actually withstood the political heat that this represents, because he has really embraced the idea that they're out to get him. And he's played that really well among his supporters, in Congress, and in the public. I think he's done a lot to bring trouble on himself to make the investigation meatier because of the actions he's taken as president.

And you know, in the end, I don't know when he'll be judged for this. But at some point, the fact that he has treated this so unseriously, that he has not treated the threat that this represents of what the Russians actually did is an incredible dereliction of his responsibility, which is separate from whatever the impact of the investigation is.

But right now, I think it carries a lot of punch against him and the Republicans. But I still see a ceiling there, you know, for Mueller and the investigation, which is something bad happened, but it doesn't really attach to the president. It may get close but doesn't actually attach to him at the moment.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, a sitting president cannot be indicted, true or false?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: We don't know for sure. I mean, that is one of the great unanswered questions of constitutional law. The Justice Department policy, which is not a binding -- not a law, Justice Department policy has been since the 1970s that a president cannot be indicted.

CAMEROTA: And that's what Giuliani is hanging his hat on?

TOOBIN: Correct. And there is constitutional law that supports that idea the president is so central to one of the three branches of government that the disruption would simply be too great to force him to sit in a courtroom, to deal with the stress of a criminal case.

But the -- there are a lot of other options available to Mueller, other than indicting him in terms of presenting him with evidence of impeachment. So you know, the indictment issue is not the be-all and end-all of this investigation.

CUOMO: Often with the law, there's a back door here, which is you're right. I can't -- I can't indict you as president. But I can investigate you and develop evidence for a case that I will indict you on after you leave office. So it would show that there's still a basis for wanting to get the facts on the ground right now.

The connection that Rudy's making now is --

CAMEROTA: You can't be subpoenaed.

CUOMO: You can't subpoena him either. And the interesting thing about this is not only does it not make sense legally, listen to what Rudy Giuliani said about exactly this issue in 1998, of course, about a Democrat, Bill Clinton.


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"?

GIULIANI: You've got to do it. I mean, you don't have a choice.


GREGORY: The question took 45 seconds, but it could have taken seven seconds to get to that.

TOOBIN: That's the least of Charlie Rose's problems now, asking long questions. Come on, you know.

CAMEROTA: But he was unequivocal. He spoke out very strongly about what a subpoena meant then.

GREGORY: Right. But this is where, you know, I think Giuliani's role in this has been such a curious choice. But the one thing that he's hammering away on is what you were alluding to, Jeffrey, which is the political dimension of this. Which is, you know, I'm sure at some level, Trump wants to sit down with Mueller. I'm sure he thinks he personally can answer a lot of these questions. I think his lawyers probably recognize it's a bad idea.

But it's what's the fodder of that report? You know, he may bring other indictments. But -- but the report of how did the president conduct himself. Was there obstruction of justice? All of that becomes fodder for a potential impeachment proceeding if you have a Democratic House. That's where things get nasty.

[07:10:13] And I think this is what Giuliani and what the president is preparing for now, is basically what the next year is going to look like of trying to undermine who Mueller is, what the investigation was, and what his findings are.

TOOBIN: And you know, we just have to keep remembering how leak-free the Mueller investigation has been. How little we know, ultimately, about what they're doing. Remember when he indicted the 13 Russians in the social media conspiracy case. No one even knew he was investigating that.

One of the questions that he has -- legal issues that he has not yet addressed, Mueller, is the whole issue of the hacking. He has not indicted anyone for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, of John Podesta's e-mails, WikiLeaks.

CAMEROTA: And that's the heart of the matter. I mean, at one time we thought that was. That was the biggest headline.

TOOBIN: And I think a case may yet be coming on that. Now, the question will be, will any Americans be involved? Like, in the Russia -- the social media case, it was all Russia. The question of whether any Americans were involved in that hacking is a much more politically significant question than the Russians, which we seem to think is a given at this point.

CUOMO: So isn't the real question, though, what difference will this make at the end of the day?

All right. Sitting president isn't indicted, OK? And I don't think anybody has seen any basis in evidence that's been offered up that would make that look like a likely outcome anyway. But if his number's at 40 now, and it's always been at about 40, despite everything that's come out about him, and you have the partisans taking sides where every development that comes out is seen two different ways, based on your political team, what difference is this going to make?

GREGORY: You know, we're in a climate if -- where we were talking about impeachment against Bill Clinton and how the tribalism in our politics has evolved from that point, that this whole investigation becomes a metaphor for overreach against Donald Trump, potentially, that everything people don't like about the media and about Democrats and elites in America will be symbolized by this investigation if, in many people's minds, it comes up short.

What really bothers me, and obviously, I think getting to the truth of who may have done wrong here is really important. Again, how as a country we position ourselves to deal with bad actors like Russia. I mean, we now have had two intelligence committees in the House and the Senate completely waste everybody's time, because they're in such divergent paths, that nobody's taken any real concrete policy action behind how to deter a threat like this or deal with it.

CAMEROTA: I mean, the Senate has found conclusive things.

GREGORY: They have. And I think they've done an incredible job. What I'm saying is on the House side, it's completely different. And where is the political will to actually work with some of this information and do something that's meaningful? We spent so much time talking about what Mueller may actually find. That's -- that's the damage has been done, that gets obscured by the politics.

CUOMO: Go ahead, Jeffrey. TOOBIN: You were saying, you know, what difference does it make politically? And I think after 2016, I certainly don't trust my own instincts in terms of knowing what the public -- you know, the public will do or vote.

But you know, I hope it's not naive or too journalistic to say, you know, I think it matters what happens. I think we need to know as Americans. We need to know for the future how the 2016 campaign unfolded and who did what.

And also, was there any obstruction of justice in the early part of the Trump administration?

CUOMO: A hundred percent.

TOOBIN: What the political impact of that is --

CUOMO: I agree with you 100 percent. The truth matters. We need to know. It would be nice if they did something to stop it next time, instead of everybody saying, "Oh, yes, they're still doing it. It's probably going to be worse." I mean, the capitulation, the sense of not doing your own duty.

I'm just saying political impact, Trump has been so effective with his fringe surrogates of taking a man, Bob Mueller, who I was concerned when he was named -- I was like, "Man, this guy is a big time Republican." But everybody seems to say, you know, he can be fair in this. Let's see how he does.

To making him seem like he's Chuck Schumer. You know, he might as well be doing this. Like a completely partisan hack, bad guy who can't be trusted. They've been really effective. That's why his numbers have stayed the same.

GREGORY: This is -- this is a part of our politics today that's so concerning. And I -- just to underline the point about how important it is, that we know what happened. Really, really know what happened.

And I think there's -- I just read a report by Tim Snyder, who's the historian who wrote on tyranny. But he also just wrote -- I think it's "The Road to Unfreedom." I may have the title wrong.

But it -- his synthesis of what happened is so important, because it goes back to what the Russians did in Ukraine. And so you think about the road to 9/11 and how it changed America, our politics, our media, we are not dedicating the same resources to figure out what this kind of threat represents. And that's the thing I can't understand.

[07:15:04] CAMEROTA: David Gregory, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you both very much. Great to talk to you.

CUOMO: I'm not calling Schumer a hack. I'm saying that they may as well be looking at Mueller as if --

CAMEROTA: I got it. I got it.

CUOMO: -- he was just a big -- he was just a big Democrat. You know?

CAMEROTA: All right. So President Trump doing what he does best, blaming opponents, this time Democrats. Here's what he says to you, the American people: "The Democrats gave us laws that are forcing us to break up the families who cross the border illegally." Facts first, right after this.


CUOMO: All right. No sanctimony, no preaching. It's just a simple piece of truth. We have to agree on what is fact, OK?

So the president holds a meeting at the White House yesterday. It's an hour-long freestyle, basically, on illegal immigration. And a lot of it needs to be examined. Let's start with this.


TRUMP: We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law. It's a horrible thing we have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law, and they don't want to do anything about it. They'll leave it like that, because they don't want to make any changes. And now you're breaking up families because of the Democrats. It's terrible.


[07:20:09] CUOMO: Now, to be honest, I don't know what he's talking about. This took some time to fact check.

Now as far as we can tell -- I'll put it to the better minds here at CNN -- the claim is certainly false. Because what recent law designed by Democrats is intended to break up families?

The Bush administration did enact a law in 2008 that was well- intentioned. It was designed to protect Central American children from human trafficking, ensuring that every child who came that way, arriving at the border, would get a hearing.

Now, what happened was you had so many kids, it became a backlog. Now what did you do? Well, you wound up splitting up the families because of just time and circumstance, not by intention, necessarily. All right.

So as for intentionally splitting up families, well, the only legal guidance there is on that was publicly floated by Trump's own attorney general. Listen.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you're smuggling a child, we're going to prosecute you. And that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don't want your child to be separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally. It's not our fault that somebody does that.


CUOMO: Now, why does this matter? It matters because the law isn't the end. It's about how it's enforced. Decisions on prosecution. And that changes with each administration. So look at Jeff Sessions about the new harshness.

President Trump also made a claim about the border wall and how far along it is. Take a listen.


TRUMP: Now, we have started the wall. We're spending $1.6 billion between fixing and starting. You know, Melissa, what's been going on. We're getting it up. We have a lot of folks in California, they don't talk about it, but they want the wall up. And they're very happy. That's one of the reasons we started in California. But we've made a lot of progress on it.


CUOMO: Now, the governor of California, Jerry Brown, says that's not true. But that could be politics. So what do we know?

We know that there have been a few protypes but that the new wall has not, in fact, been started. Of course, this is going to get to your definition of what "start" is. That $1.6 billion, that's a real number. That's the number he got out of the original 25 that the president asked for. Our accounting shows that it's gone towards shoring up the existing wall and fence.

Trump showed off pictures -- remember? -- back in March. And quote, "The start of our southern border wall"? Now, that was just fabrication. That was old fencing repairs that was going on. The plans for what were originally drawn up in 2009. All right? So those are the facts.

Now, some of this stuff could be debated. We should do that right now. Let's discuss all of it with CNN political commentator Ana Navarro and Rick Santorum, CNN senior political commentator.

Good to have you both here.

Rick, out of the box, I give you right of first reply. Anything I say there that you believe offends reason or truth?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, the 2008 law you referred to was, in fact, passed by a Democratic Congress. Yes, it was signed by George Bush, but it was something back in 2007, 2008. The Democrats controlled Congress and pushed --

CUOMO: But doing the check, had bipartisan support all the way down the road. So to call it a Democrat law, fugazi at best --

SANTORUM: All I would say is the Democrats controlled Congress, and that was their agenda item. You know, as you know, when a party controls the Congress, they move what they want to move. And they moved that bill. So you can argue that it's a little hyperbole to say just the Democrats, but it's not completely inaccurate to say that.

CUOMO: Not completely inaccurate. That's not really the standard, though. We know the Democrats didn't put us in this mess.

SANTORUM: Well, I mean --

CUOMO: This is about -- this is about enforcement. That's what it's about.

SANTORUM: I hear you.

CUOMO: It's about enforcement. So Ana, let's talk about that, why Jeff Sessions matters in this, why the homeland security chief, Nielsen, matters. They're making decision about how to enforce the law. The law exists. You can make choices. They're making choices. What do you make of those choices?

NAVARRO: Look, and it happens with practically every law, where the department of jurisdiction has got a lot of leeway to determine how to regulate the law, how to execute the law. How to put it into actual practice.

They've actually -- you know, they've obviously taken this -- this decision of splitting up families.

This is not -- now, he's right. This is not the first time this happened. And there is a problem with minors coming to the border. And there is a part of this that is about deterrent. And I understand that. Because it's very difficult, and it's very dangerous for minors, for families to cross the border. There's a lot of abuses. There's a lot of rapes that happen. There's a lot of horrible things that happen.

But what do we do with those families once they're split up? Look, I'm more concerned -- I'm a lot less concerned about the demagoguery in Donald Trump's meeting, about the wall that is not getting built and the money that he doesn't have about the law. That wasn't, you know, just a Democrat law that is being implemented by his family.

I'm a lot more concerned that when he does things like call immigrants "animals." When we start dehumanizing people. He says he was talking about the White House, like he was talking about MS-13.

[07:25:07] CUOMO: Let's play the sound. Let's play the sound. Here's the sound.


TRUMP: We have people coming into the country, trying to come in -- we're stopping a lot of them. But we're taking people out of the country. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals.


CUOMO: The defense is that he was following up on a statement of a sheriff saying that this is MS-13. He was just talking about MS-13. Good enough?

NAVARRO: No, not good enough. Not good enough from a president who has called countries in Central America, called countries like Haiti shitholes; not good enough from a president who has talked about Haitians having AIDS; not good enough from a president who has said that people in Africa live in huts and why would they come here? That's why he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt. And not good enough when you are seeing the level of division and hostility that you are seeing out there in America.

Yesterday I saw a video of a complete bigoted racist in midtown Manhattan, screaming racist expletives at two women who had worked there, who were Hispanic, who had been speaking Spanish to each other, I suspect the same way that your family spoke Italian to each other many times and that Rick's family spoke Italian to each other.

CUOMO: Still do.

NAVARRO: And still do. And you know, this is happening in America every day.

He was a big Trump supporter. I'm not saying all Trump supporters are like this. I'm not saying all Trump supporters are deplorable. But I am saying that the president of the United States has got to measure his words and be more careful about what he says. And it is a very slippery slope when you start dehumanizing people this way.

It's what the Nazis did. It's what slave owners did. It's not what Americans do.

CUOMO: Rick, she lost you with "Nazi." What's your defense?

SANTORUM: This is -- this is one of the reasons that a big chunk of the country just turns off the media when they start going after the president. Because they take something that is completely explainable and perfectly accurate within context of the president talking about people that they are deporting now -- and there's an emphasis, as there always has been -- on the criminal element as the priority to be deported.

He'd just heard from the sheriff talking about MS-13. And the president was commenting on that -- on those very individuals.

And to say he doesn't get a pass because he said some offensive things in the past, sorry, that just doesn't cut it. The president is allowed to comment on things and accurately reflect his mood and, I think, the mood of the people in that room, and the mood of millions of Americans that these are, in fact, really bad people who are, quote, "animals," who are doing horrific things within our country.

And you know what? I understand that people sometimes -- that hyperbole can offend people, but it certainly connects with a lot of people, particularly those who are victimized.

CUOMO: You're assuming that we are debating how people feel about MS- 13. Do we like that they're being called "animals" or not? SANTORUM: That was the context in which the president made the


CUOMO: Understood. However, why is he not getting the benefit of context by people like Ana? Because of what he said in the past, Rick.

And here's the proof. If I were to list for you all the things he's said about immigrants, how many would you own yourself and say, "I agree with him about that"? That most of the people coming over from Mexico are drug dealers and the worst, and this and that --

NAVARRO: Criminals and rapists.

CUOMO: Africans live in huts. And this is what I think about Haiti, what kind of hole it is. How many of those statements would you own and say, "I agree"?

SANTORUM: I think the president is entitled to --

CUOMO: How many of those statements would you agree with?

SANTORUM: I don't think it's -- I don't think it's important, Chris.

CUOMO: It's, of course, important.

SANTORUM: What's important is to look at the context in which he said what he said.

CUOMO: Because it's the frame for analysis.

SANTORUM: -- disagree.

CUOMO: Of course he has the right to say it. But that's a specious argument. It's not about his First Amendment right. Not trying to censor him.

SANTORUM: It think it's accurate for him to say it. I think it's a -- it's not just the right to say it. It's that it's true.

CUOMO: You think that -- so you think that illegal immigrants, by and large, are bad people who are coming here to do bad things?

SANTORUM: That's not what the president said today.

CUOMO: Not in this context, giving him the benefit of it. Although he certainly wasn't careful with what he said. Right? Usually, a Rick Santorum would say, "I'm not saying everybody. I'm saying these MS-13 types." He doesn't make that kind of careful distinction. Why not?

SANTORUM: He talked about people -- he talked about people that are being deported today. And as we know, the priority of this administration and previous administrations is to deport dangerous criminals.

NAVARRO: That's actually not true.

CUOMO: Well, then why are they splitting up all these families that aren't MS-13?

NAVARRO: We have seen a ton of people who are American in every way but one get deported by this administration. We have seen doctors get deported. We have seen DACA kids get deported. We have seen veterans get deported by this administration. So it's not just the MS-13.

SANTORUM: And the previous -- and previous administrations.

NAVARRO: No, but we're talking about this. Can we stick to maybe the last 16 months, just for argument's sake?

CUOMO: You didn't hear the Obama administration make these kinds of arguments about why they're getting rid of them.

I think this is the last point and Rick, you can have it. You can look at the numbers and see that people have been getting thrown out of this country at a pretty decent rate for Obama's administration and now. I know they say the numbers are ticking up. We have to understand why they're ticking up right now. It could just be seasonal need of labor. We've got to look at it.

But the tone has changed. And you are defending the tone. You say a lot of people share this. I'm not talking about MS-13. Who's going to defend MS-13? Nobody wants MS-13 in the country. But the tone has shifted about what it means about you if you're an illegal immigrant. I want to hear you say, "Yes, I --"