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Rudy Giuliani Claims Special Counsel Indicated President Trump Cannot be Indicted; Muller Investigation One Year In; FBI Director: Russia Probe Not Witch Hunt. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 17, 2018 - 8:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think certain things the president would like to see done in terms of his statements publicly about this probe. But what he has done is changed the leadership at the FBI. He has done a lot there that I think that most people close to the president thought would please him. That has not been enough either.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Maggie, stick around. We want to reset at the top of the hour, but we have for questions for you.

So good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, May 17th, 8:00 in the east. Just moments ago, President Trump did write on twitter, he sounded off on the one-year mark about the Mueller investigation, saying in part we are now in the second year of the greatest witch hunt in the American history.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Also just moments ago, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is making the case on TV talking more about his conversation with Robert Mueller's team. Yes, we are inviting the mayor to come on here and test some of his claims as well. He's been spending a lot of time on FOX, and he says that the Mueller investigators admitted to him that they do not have the power to indict a sitting president.

CAMEROTA: OK, we're back now with CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. So Rudy Giuliani, what's the thought on him lately in the White House? Because he keeps saying things that, first of all, are completely contradictory to things he has said in the past in terms of whether or not a president should comply with a subpoena, and as you know it's still an open question about whether a sitting president can be indicted. So where is the president on Rudy Giuliani right now?

HABERMAN: Look, the president actually has been -- he was not pleased with a lot of Rudy Giuliani's earlier performances, particularly that first one with Sean Hannity, not because of the content but because of how it was put out and how the interview went, I'm told that he's pretty happy with how this has gone in terms of deflecting attention of off him, putting certain pieces of information out there that the president wanted out that other members of his team were less willing to or didn't think was a good idea in the first place.

This wasn't an accident that Rudy Giuliani suddenly started talking about the idea that the president couldn't be indicted. I don't know this for certain, but just based on the past pattern it seems unlikely that Giuliani would have done that without Trump giving some, whether it was a push or just a tacit nod. It caught other people close to the president by surprise once again. That doesn't mean the president was unaware of it.

CUOMO: Here's what Rudy said this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: It came up this way. I asked them specifically if they realized or acknowledged they didn't have the power to indict, both under the Justice Department memo which gives them their power in essence, confines their power, and under the constitution. And he said, well, he wouldn't answer. And one of his assistants said they acknowledged they had to be bound by Justice Department policies. And then the next day or the day after they clarified it for Jay Sekulow who was with me at the meeting that they didn't have the power to indict, that what they would eventually do is write a memorandum and give it to the deputy attorney general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Maggie, as the lawyer to the conversation, not legally offensive to say they don't believe they can indict a sitting president, that's the DOJ guidance, they have a couple of different takes on it from different cases. You could legally argue in different ways about when and what. But he uses it to knit together the idea that therefore they cannot subpoena a president of the United States, if you can't indict you can't subpoena. Here's what Rudy said about presidents responding to subpoenas in 1998, of course referring to a Democrat then, Bill Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the president is asked to testify, subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury, and says no, not going to do it.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: You've got to do it. You don't have a choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Maggie?

HABERMAN: Well, I think a charitable reading of that if you want to give one is that he was speaking about there was more settled interpretations of this such as what happened with Bill Clinton. But yes, this is obviously a different stand than what he is saying now. And I had the same conversation with him and with others close to the Trump team that this really was about their question of whether the president can be subpoenaed, they think there is one area, there is one basic bucket of information that Mueller is seeking in these buckets that he has put out that goes to the president's own knowledge of potential crime which is the obstruction of justice piece where they can only get that information of what the president was thinking from the president. That would be what would be subpoena-able, but if you cannot indict is their argument, then you cannot issue a subpoena and chase it that way. CAMEROTA: But Maggie, isn't it interesting to hear Giuliani there on

"FOX and Friends" talk about how that came to pass, that he had conversations with people -- Mueller's assistants, people on Mueller's staff, and that they said to him, if you believe that he's a reliable narrator, that they would follow the DOJ guidance. So if he was brought in to be the liaison with Robert Mueller's team then this is good news obviously for the White House and the president?

[08:05:13] HABERMAN: It is. I don't know that it's news that Robert Mueller -- if it is accurate that Robert Mueller's team wants out there in this way. I don't think that they appreciate having information from these meetings which had taken place for months prior to Rudy Giuliani's arrival getting put out there in this way, but I'm certain it makes the president happy, which goes back to my belief that the president may have given his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a nudge to put this into the ether.

CUOMO: Also, if you look at the Clinton example, what got him jammed up was an impeachment process which came after a special counsel independent prosecutor report about perjury under oath in a civil suit. So it exposes Trump to exactly the same scenario. Now, Giuliani gave you guys a pat on the back at the "The New York Times" this morning for helping advance one of their theories about what this is really about.

CAMEROTA: A backhanded pat on the back.

CUOMO: He didn't really mean it.

HABERMAN: Thanks for clarifying. I appreciate that. I won't get too excited.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: I saw your eyebrows raise in skepticism for a second.

CUOMO: I didn't want you to start tweeting while I was asking my question.

The idea is this, what this is really about is an insidious plot by the left and deep state to undo this president, and there is a "The New York Times" report this morning that suggests that investigators had a source who was in contact with people close to the campaign and maybe within the campaign itself and that is proof of spying. Is that right?

HABERMAN: I think that that's his interpretation. I don't think that that is accurate. We had a very long story about the FBI investigation into Trump that was primarily about comparing that investigation -- looking at how it evolved, and the code name was Crossfire Hurricane which is a fantastic code name, but was looking at how that investigation evolved and also how it compared to the Clinton email server investigation.

I don't think it's a surprise that anyone close to the president is seizing on one corner of it and trying to turn that into the entire argument. I also don't know it will be successful.

CAMEROTA: OK, Maggie, let's talk about Michael Cohen, the president's long time fixer and attorney. So Ronan Farrow was here. He has a bombshell report this morning in the "New Yorker" about how the source -- the reason we know about Michael Cohen's LLCs and what else it was taken money in, what other companies it was taking money and going out is because of this source, unnamed. And this source says that he or she was motivated because he could not find the suspicious activity reports that he knew to exist about Michael Cohen, so where are they? Were they scrubbed from the system? Had they been masked somehow? In any event, it was so suspicious that he felt that he had to flag a reporter and become a whistleblower. What's the feeling about Michael Cohen from the White House now?

HABERMAN: The feeling about Michael Cohen from the White House I think is about where it has been since his hotel room office and apartment were raided as part of a search warrant. I don't think that this thrills anybody because it's yet another piece of information that they have to answer for.

I think it is worth noting that one reading of this is that somebody in government pulled it, and it's the government run by the president who's lawyer we're talking about here. The other thing to bear in mind, though, and somebody pointed this out on Twitter last night who is not exactly pro-Trump, that doesn't mean the bank didn't have the record. And since we assume that Mueller has likely subpoenaed Cohen's bank records or had the ability to do or the SDNY did, it's not like the bank record itself just went missing. It's that copy of the report was not available, and it obviously is not a good look, it raises questions. I understand why there was a whistle-blower. I'm loathe to jump to conclusions about why that is yet.

CUOMO: I think you're right on this one to slow walk it because he says too, I think of the SARS -- the suspicious activity reports that should have been in the system warrant, so he released the other ones prophylactically just in case they were being secreted away by wrongful means. However, to be a whistleblower is a federal statute. He would have to show that government, bad acts by the government motivated his disclosure. We don't know if he meets that bar at this point.

HABERMAN: Correct, we don't. And this person is clearly putting themselves in jeopardy. We always appreciate when whistleblowers do that. I assume this person is going to end up getting somehow identified just because -- they made clear that's what their scared of. Again, I don't know enough about what could exist or what they think exists to know whether they meet that --

[08:10:04] CUOMO: And somehow that guy Avenatti got a full page of wrong Michael Cohens which allowed Michael Cohen to throw shade on the entire thing and try to initiate an investigation. That wasn't helpful either.

HABERMAN: He's not wrong. I think -- the information that Michael Avenatti got hold of was incredibly important in terms of the actual Michael Cohen. But when you muddy -- the same way with reporters, if we put that in print, and "The New York Times" did not, but if we had gone ahead with that, that -- there would understandably be a lot of anger about it. And I don't know understand why Michael Avenatti sort of went further than necessary.

And every time if that happens it's not going to be greeted with an oops, oh, well. That is problematic. The whole argument against Cohen and Trump, or not the whole, but a part of the argument is that they are not being forthcoming and that they are not telling the truth and they are offering false information. When you do that yourself, whatever the intent, it's not a good look.

CAMEROTA: Maggie Haberman, thank you very much.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So as we've mentioned, Rudy Giuliani claims that the special counsel told him that the president cannot be indicted. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal has a very different take, and he's here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney, is making a bold claim. He tells CNN that the special counsel's team has concluded that they cannot indict a sitting U.S. president.

[08:15:00] Giuliani said of the special counsel, all they get to do is write a report, they cannot indict.

Joining us now to share his thoughts is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He is on the Judiciary Committee.

Senator, is Rudy Giuliani right, a U.S. president cannot be indicted?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (R), CONNECTICUT: First, Alisyn, let me just say that when Robert Mueller is ready to announce his own conclusion about whether a sitting United States president can be indicted, I think he will do it for himself, not through Rudy Giuliani. So I'm somewhat dubious that the special counsel has articulated this position through former Mayor Giuliani.

The second point --

CAMEROTA: I mean, Giuliani -- just to be -- just to clarify for our viewers, Giuliani said even this morning, as recently as a few minutes ago, that he was in touch with Robert Mueller's assistants in the office and they said that they would follow Department of Justice guidance, which is, and the precedent is, but I want to get your take, a sitting U.S. president cannot be indicted.

BLUMENTHAL: And that's the real point here, that the Department of Justice guidelines say that a president cannot be indicted. It has never been tested in court. There's no precedent for it.

I will grant you that there are a lot of legal scholars who say that a president cannot be indicted while in office. I happen to believe, having reviewed a lot of the same law, that a president can be indicted. Why? Because no one is above the law. The president has profoundly important duties of office, but those responsibilities can be reconciled with an indictment and a delay of the trial until he is out of office.

The danger with putting him above the law is that a statute of limitations can run, a potential criminal liability may be lost --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: And that's why I think that an indictment, but not a trial, is the right way to go.

CAMEROTA: OK. But let's say that you're wrong and let's say that, in fact, the precedence stands and he cannot be indicted, then what has this year of the Mueller investigation gotten us? Where are we after a year? Where are we after two years if there's -- if something is found to have gone wrong but the president can't be indicted?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, first, you rightly drew the distinction a little bit earlier in the show between an indictment and a subpoena. There is, in my view, and in the view of most legal scholars, no question that the president can be subpoenaed and that that compulsory appearance before the grand jury would be enforceable.

Under the United States Supreme Court decision in the Nixon tapes case, he was subpoenaed. The subpoena was enforced. And he had to turn over the tapes, even though it was not a prosecution of himself.

And so these are two distinguishable processes. And you're absolutely right to draw the distinction.

Where are we with the Mueller investigation? Well, there have been 22 indictments and four convictions of people close to the president. In fact, intimately involved in either the Trump administration or his campaign, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, all involved potentially in Russian interference in the campaign and the election --

CAMEROTA: Or lying to investigators. I mean that's what they were pleading guilty to.

BLUMENTHAL: If you look at the transcripts released just yesterday and they are only one small snapshot, what you find is the Trump campaign actively solicited and likely received assistance from the Russians during the last election. If you look at Donald Trump Junior's testimony about the meeting on June 9th at Trump Towers --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

BLUMENTHAL: If you look at his direct messages with WikiLeaks about the hacking and theft of the Clinton e-mails. If you look at his answers, which are evasive and contradictory, and if you sat in that room, as I did, and watched his body language, what you see is growing evidence of Russian involvement in the campaign, but also the knowledge and participation of the Trump campaign in that interference.

CAMEROTA: OK, I want to get on -- I want to get to that because we do have those transcripts now courtesy of the Judiciary Committee. They released 2,000 pages.

So here is one of the moments that you're talking about. The question to Don Junior, does your father use a blocked number on his cell phone or any phones that you call him on? Don Junior says, I don't know. The question is, so you don't know whether this might have been your father? Don Junior says, I don't.

That is in reference to these blocked calls. We have a graphic. On June 6th there was a four minute call at 4:27 p.m. At 8:40 p.m., there was an 11 minute call. All of these came from a blocked cell phone number or a blocked number. June 9th, two hours after the meeting in Trump Tower with the Russians, there was a three minute call from that same phone number. Do you know who that phone number -- who owns that blocked phone number? Is there any way to find out?

[08:20:13] BLUMENTHAL: We have guesses and speculation. But your question, which is profoundly important, is the reason that the Judiciary Committee investigation must proceed with subpoenas to Donald Trump Junior for additional documents and for his testimony, as well as to Jared Kushner, who was at that June 9th meeting, and possibly Paul Manafort, even though he is under indictment.

But here is the main point, going back to your earlier question. We know that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, knows way more than we do. That has been the pattern --

CAMEROTA: So you think he knows who these -- who -- who has this blocked number? They have the technology to figure that out?

BLUMENTHAL: They may well. I can't say for certain. But the reason why that question is important is the prior question in that very transcript about whether Donald Trump Junior discussed the June 9th meeting with his father, the president. We know that the president helped concoct a false version of that meeting, saying it was only about childhood adoptions and the Magnitsky Act, when, in fact, very likely he knew from Donald Trump Junior that it was about dirt on Hillary Clinton. Remember, Donald Trump Junior said when he was offer this harmful, incriminating evidence about Hillary Clinton, I love it.

And so the best guess is that sometime shortly after that meeting, or before, he told the president of the United States about it. He may have done it in that blocked phone call. We need to continue this investigation through the Senate Judiciary Committee, more important through the special counsel, and that's why we need to protect the special counsel.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you need to be able to connect some of those dots that you're obviously speculating about.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, we always appreciate you coming in with your perspective. Thank you very much.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So we're one year into the special counsel's Russia investigation. Where do things stand? It's a hard question because we just don't know that much. Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo was questioned by Mueller's team. He has his theories. He wants to make a case to you. Let's test it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:26:24] CUOMO: All right, one thing that we know is a fact is that it has been a year that Robert Mueller has been leading this investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Is that too long? Is it long enough? Has it been worth it? Now these are all things that take us from fact into feelings.

Here are some numbers up on the screen for you. Seventy-five criminal charges against 22 people and companies, five have pleaded guilty, one person has been sentenced and there's a lot we don't know because this guy and his team has been pretty good about staying quiet. Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo is one of at least 40 people who gave interviews to investigators. We say at least because we don't know. They haven't told us. Joins us now.

Good to see you.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Good to see you. Nice to see you, Chris.

CUOMO: The president says congratulations, America, we're now in the second year of the greatest witch hunt in American history. Greater than the Salem witch trials?

CAPUTO: Well, I don't know about that. I wasn't around.

CUOMO: Do you believe this is a witch hunt? You've met with his men and women. You know where they're coming from. Do you believe that they're just into this for the hell of it? Fishing expedition?

CAPUTO: Oh, no, I don't think when the president says it's a witch hunt that he means they're into if for the hell of it. He means that they're into it just to catch someone. And I -- and I think --

CUOMO: Witch hunt means ill-legitimate.

CAPUTO: I think they're after something super natural. It might be a troll or something. It might not be a witch. But they're after something. And I believe that they are -- they have confirmation bias. They truly believe that there was Russian collusion. And even though it doesn't seem so far that they've got direct evidence of Russian collusion, they're still managing to manufacturer crimes.

CUOMO: Manufacture crimes. So you're saying that the people who have been indicted so far aren't guilty (INAUDIBLE). CAPUTO: I wouldn't say that across the board, but I believe, for

example, that Paul Manafort has a really good shot of defeating these charges. And I believe that the Mueller team is head today jamming up Roger Stone. I think they're trying -- well, first of all, they're not going to find any Russian collusion on Roger Stone's part. But if -- when they don't, they're going to be very frustrated. We know that Weissman (ph), one of the -- one of the lead investigators, when he gets frustrated, he tends to overreach and over -- and overcharge. And I believe that they're going to go after Roger Stone in any way possible.

CUOMO: Well, a few things. One, it is not unusual for prosecutors to be zealous and potentially overcharge. And certainly not a criticism you could level at only this group, even if it's true.

CAPUTO: No, of course not. It's still wrong.

CUOMO: Two, Roger Stone's own mouth and fingers got him in trouble. He tweeted lots of things, said lots of things that he now says were lies or different types of things.

CAPUTO: I think he said he knew -- I think he said he agreed with you (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Right. And he also tweeted things that wound up being a real hell of a coincidence in terms of what he said was going to happen and then what happened. So, we'll see what happens. But certainly going after him on those questions isn't far-fetched. But --

CAPUTO: It isn't. But when they -- when -- and I believe they won't find anything. When they don't, I believe the Mueller team will go after him for jaywalking.

CUOMO: Right. But they haven't.

CAPUTO: They haven't, but they will.

CUOMO: All right, but we don't know.

CAPUTO: But let's talk about it the day they do.

CUOMO: All right. But we can't talk about it now the same way. You're saying with a lot of confidence --

CAPUTO: Right.

CUOMO: But not a lot of competence, because it hasn't happened.

What I'm saying is what has happened is Christopher Wray, Trump's guy at the FBI, says, not a witch hunt. Republicans and Democrats, and, let's be honest, Burr has been very good, the leader of the Senate Intel Committee, to Donald Trump. He and the Democrats agree Russian interference is real, it happened, it could happen again. They did it to help Trump. Not a witch hunt. Not a witch hunt.

CAPUTO: Well, that's your opinion. Like I said, I'm not comfortable -- CUOMO: No, no, no, their opinion. Their opinion.

CAPUTO: I get that. I'm not comfortable calling it a witch hunt. I've told you that. But I do believe that they're at -- they're -- they're finding people that they -- that are -- and then they're trying to find crimes. They're not seeing crimes and then trying to find the people. And that's when an investigation, as far as I know, are -- is supposed to do.

You're a lawyer. I'm not. I'm concerned about this.

[08:30:05] CUOMO: You sat with them. They asked you real questions. They seemed to know a lot about the campaign. You came out of there thinking, these are competent people. They know what they're talking about. True or false?

CAPUTO: No doubt about it.