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President Trump And Allies Push To Out FBI Informant; School Officials: Active Shooter At High School In Texas; Giuliani: "The President Would Testify Tomorrow If It Was About The Truth. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired May 18, 2018 - 09:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[09:00:18] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's top of the hour, good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow. And we begin with breaking news this morning.

You heard it here first, Rudy Giuliani says the confidential FBI informant who aided in the very early stages of the Russia investigation may not even exist, which may come as news to his client, President Trump, who with some key allies is calling this informant a spy, whose emerging activities in the Trump campaign are a scandal, quote, "bigger than Watergate," according to the president.

Listen to the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, speaking just moments ago to Chris Cuomo on "NEW DAY."


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Here's the issue that I really feel strongly about with this informant, if there is one. First of all, I don't know for sure, nor does the president, if there really was one.


HARLOW: Reports in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" have said that there was in fact a, quote, "top secret FBI source" whom the president and others in Congress right now and beyond are clamoring to out while calling the entire investigation illegitimate.

It was a remarkable CNN interview, it lasted about 45 minutes. Giuliani also said there has been substantial progress towards an agreement with Bob Mueller, the special counsel, and his team and the president on sitting down for an interview and, Giuliani said, the scope of that interview has been significantly narrowed.

A lot to unpack. Let's go to Abby Phillip at the White House. Also with us, Shimon Prokupecz of our justice team joins us from Washington.

So, Abby, set the stage for us. ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning,

Poppy. The president engaged in this conversation about the confidential informant increasingly in the last day or so in part because there's been a push among his outside allies particularly in the House of Representatives, to raise this with the FBI, seeking more information about this potential informant.

Now the president tweeted yesterday that he believed that this would be bigger than Watergate, but his attorney this morning, as you just mentioned, said that they don't know for sure whether there is an informant. But if he did, Giuliani says he believes this informant would have cleared the president. Take a listen.


GIULIANI: I believe if there was an embedded person, that person cleared us because the FBI cleared us. I wonder what the heck is the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation in the first place. The FBI came to the conclusion there was no evidence of collusion with Russia, end of case.


PHILLIP: Well, of course that's not quite accurate. The special counsel investigation continues to investigate that central question of whether there was collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Russians. But at the same time, "The Washington Post" is reporting that the president's allies see this issue of the informant as key to their efforts to undermine the special counsel by calling into question the legitimacy of the investigation, which was aided in part by some information by some kind of informant.

But of course we don't know whether or not that person was inside the campaign as the president is alleging in his tweets or outside of the campaign. And of course the president himself on this day after the one-year anniversary of the Mueller probe is doing as much as he can to also raise questions about whether or not the special counsel investigation is legal -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And Abby, stay with us.

Shimon, I mean, this is clearly their strategy. This is from the president to Giuliani all-out war on their own, you know, Department of Justice. You have Giuliani telling "The Washington Post" in a piece this morning, the prior government did it but the present government for some reason, I can't figure it out, is covering it up, talking about this alleged informant.

What are you hearing from your sources?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. So there -- you know, the idea that there's some cover-up regarding this informant is pretty ridiculous quite honestly.

HARLOW: Right. PROKUPECZ: And you know, I've been talking to some people at the FBI

about this issue because it has been before Congress, before Devin Nunes. There is a lot of concern in revealing who this informant is, what his work or her work and what exactly this person did, we don't know. Look, informants are treated with such sensitivity at the FBI, especially on a counterintelligence investigation. This could be a source from Russia, this could be a source from any other -- from the U.K., it could be a source that's working with other governments.

There is always an enormous amount of concern. Information like this is not usually shared with anyone except people within the highest levels of the FBI, the CIA, the intelligence officials. And that is why the FBI and the Department of Justice are fighting with Devin Nunes over releasing who this person is.

Look at what Devin Nunes has done, you know, with other situations in this case, certainly with other memos, with other information that has come to them. They do not need this informant's information out there. They do not need -- the FBI, that is, they do not need this informant to be in any way politicized. And we don't know what information quite frankly this informant was providing.

[09:05:02] This informant could have been providing information on the Russians or others that may have been trying to collude with this -- with the campaign. Look, there is an enormous investigation that Bob Mueller has undertaken in terms of what the Russians here were doing, and that is still a very active investigation and they are looking to bring charges against Russians for hacking, for some of the money that perhaps was being given to straw donors in the U.S.

And this is what this informant could also be providing. We just don't know enough details. And for folks to be out there like Giuliani and certainly the president somehow making these kinds of assumptions about the informant is extremely, extremely dangerous. And that is why really the Department of Justice, why the FBI is so opposed to releasing any information about this informant.

HARLOW: They also know full well that Mueller's team is not going to come out and comment on this either way, so they can put all this out there and not have any response from, you know, DOJ, FBI or Mueller's team on it.

Shimon, thank you for the reporting. Abby, thank you very much.

Let's digest all of this with my panel, Julie Hirschfeld Davis is here, our political analyst, Matt Lewis, our political commentator, and Asha Rangappa, our legal and national security analyst.

So, Asha, let me begin with you. As the lawyer on this panel, there's a lot to get to here including the scope which Giuliani says is narrowed if they do this interview with the president, but this is a clear shift in legal strategy and a clear pitting of James Comey's honesty against the president's honesty.

Let's listen to Rudy Giuliani talking about Comey this morning.


GIULIANI: Wednesday night we received a communication from them. Now we did go through like five letters. We didn't get a response. Then they sent us a response. I can't go into detail, but narrowing the subjects for questioning down to about two.

Do you get a big liar like Comey, a big liar like McCabe in the FBI, a guy with a conflict of interest from day one on the Hillary investigation, which is why he's lying to cover his ass? Of course you get that. You get bad people in the FBI.


HARLOW: All right. So, Asha, what do you make of that, that this is clearly their strategy?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, this is always the defense strategy. If the facts and the law aren't on your side, go after the prosecutors and the police and discredit the actual basis of the investigation. You know, they can try to discredit Comey, but he's really not the only witness here. You know, I think we tend to think of this as just he said-she said between the president and Comey, but there are a lot of actions both before and after the conversations that they both had that could point the way to providing evidence of obstruction.

HARLOW: On that point of obstruction, guys, let's roll that sound if we can pull it up, Rudy Giuliani talking about whether or not he believes the president can obstruct justice, if we can play that.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You don't think a president can obstruct justice?

GIULIANI: He can, but in the case of firing a subordinate who's going to be replaced by somebody else on an acting basis immediately --

CUOMO: But it's why you fired them, corrupt intent, just part of the legal analysis.

GIULIANI: It doesn't matter if in fact it can't result in anything.


HARLOW: Significant, Matt Lewis, to you, that Giuliani said that this morning?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean I think that Giuliani is correct in the sense that it's really hard to prove that intent. It would be very hard to prove that the president is trying to obstruct justice when he fires somebody.

Now there's actually a bill that would, you know, allow, say, like Robert Mueller, for example, to appeal if he wasn't fired for, quote, "good cause." HARLOW: Yes.

LEWIS: That's not going to go anywhere. So I think that, look, Giuliani is obviously playing a very bad hand right here and he's spinning and all that, but I think on the merits on this one, he actually has a point. Very difficult to prove that a president is obstructing when he does -- he is in the hierarchy and he has the ability to fire people.

HARLOW: Julia, as someone who covers the White House, what do you make of the fact that Rudy Giuliani has laid out so much more here than anyone on the president's legal team up until now has laid out? The fact that he divulged this information.

And guys, you just heard it. Let's play it again so people can hear exactly what Giuliani said about the narrowed scope of a possible sit- down with the president and Bob Mueller's team.


GIULIANI: Wednesday night we received a communication from them. Now we did go through like five letters. We didn't get a response. And then they sent us a response. I can't go into detail, but narrowing the subjects for questioning down to about two.


HARLOW: Julie, why is he putting that out there?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's extraordinary. I mean, we have all been reporting, my colleagues have been reporting about sort of the behind-the-scenes back-and-forth between the president's lawyers and Mueller's team about whether an interview with take place and under what circumstances and what the scope would be.

[09:10:12] But the fact that he has gone on cable TV and laid out, you know, exactly how many letters they sent to Mueller's team and exactly how many areas now the special counsel is willing to consider questioning the president about is extraordinary really. And I think what it shows you is that they know that they're getting pretty close to a decision point here both for the president and what the special counsel is going to do in response to whatever the president decides.

And he wants to create a narrative here, that they're trying to cooperate, that there's a back-and-forth, that, you know, they're being reasonable, but at the same time that the special counsel is sort of trying to go beyond his scope, trying to go beyond where he should be, that they're trying to narrow him down and he's trying to reach out and also, obviously, to discredit the FBI and the other investigators who have been looking into these questions.

HARLOW: Right. Did you hear, Julie, what I heard in that interview that he seems to be ramping up the attack on Christopher Wray, the president's own, you know, appointee who heads the FBI?

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Absolutely. And I mean this is just part of a pattern by Giuliani and by the president himself and people around him to discredit a lot of high-ranking officials at the FBI and essentially sow seeds of doubt about whether they're carrying out their law enforcement mandate or whether they're a bunch of, you know, biased and politically motivated people with an agenda.

I mean, you heard him talk about how these are bad guys. He talked about Comey and McCabe, and how McCabe had a conflict of interest. There is a real strategy here I think to try to discredit the people who are investigating this matter as much as possible. And it's probably for the reasons that Asha cited earlier. They know they have a difficult case here and they're trying to undercut the folks who are coming at them on it.

HARLOW: Asha, is Rudy Giuliani, Attorney Rudy Giuliani, not politician Rudy Giuliani, legally, is he helping his client, the president?

RANGAPPA: I don't think he has done anything that helps his client. He divulges too much information. He states facts that have not yet been out that harm his client, like the payments that were made. I think maybe he thinks he's getting out in front, but what he's actually doing is creating more of a case. He might be divulging, you know, conversations that should be protected by privilege where he's quoting the president directly.

HARLOW: Which then, by the way, erases that privilege.

RANGAPPA: It doesn't necessarily erase it because the privilege is held by the client, but it does -- you know, he's quoting this person and now Mueller has something to ask the president about. And you know, I think that with regard to this interview, the two-topic thing doesn't mean anything. There are two topics that the FBI wants to ask Trump about, obstruction and collusion. And they can, you know, come up with some list or whatever, but once they get into that interview, it will go on for hours, they will ask him follow-up questions and they will not be able to control the scope of that.

HARLOW: Matt Lewis, what do you think? I mean, do you think that Giuliani, the politician, is being successful here, though?


HARLOW: In terms of at least muddying the waters?

LEWIS: Absolutely. Look, I agree, the more they talk, the more legal jeopardy they get in. But in terms of the politics, I think it's very clear that they are trying to muddy the waters. And I think they're doing it. I mean, look, this is really in the eye of the beholder, OK? On one hand, you may see this as a perfectly rational thing for the intelligence community to do. In fact, you may call this person a confidential informant. That sounds perfectly fine, right? But what if it's a spy? What if the government doesn't like Donald Trump, and what if they embedded a spy in his campaign to try to entrap him or his subordinates as a part of a deep state coup?

Now that may sound crazy, but those are two very different ways of stating what may be the same thing. And if a lot of Donald Trump's base buys that argument that this is nefarious and malicious.

HARLOW: Right.

LEWIS: Then the political problem is solved. You can't impeach and he's probably going to skate at least for a while.

HARLOW: And the words from the president this morning, in one of his tweets, quoting FOX News saying apparently the DOJ put a spy in the Trump campaign.


HARLOW: The president says that on Twitter and we're told to take these at face value from the White House, his tweets, and then Giuliani goes on TV a few minutes later and says we don't even know if there is an informant, by the way. But the choice of the use of the word "spy" also really matters, as you just mentioned.

LEWIS: Big time.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys, very, very much. There's a lot to get to this morning.

The president's own lawyer going to war, as we just talked about, with the Department of Justice and the FBI. You're going to hear more of Rudy Giuliani's sit-down with Chris Cuomo ahead.

Also President Trump with a new message to the North Korean leader saying that Kim Jong-un would stay in power and North Korea would be rich if a deal is struck with the United States.

And big news, just hours away from the big day, the royal wedding. Meghan Markle picks a prince to walk her down the aisle, and she's walking herself partway. Why that's significant, next.


HARLOW: And big news, just hours away from the big day, the royal wedding, Meghan Markle picks a prince to walk her down the aisle, and she's walking herself partway. Why that's significant, next.


HARLOW: All right. We're just getting some breaking news into us here about an active shooter - an active school shooting taking place right now in the Santa Fe school district. This is in Texas. This is about an hour outside of Houston, south of Houston. You see it there.

Let's go straight to our Polo Sandoval who has more. And, Polo, the details are just coming in. All we hear at this point is reports of an active shooter at this high school. Is that right?

[09:20:07] POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, that's correct. Those reports coming in about 30 minutes ago. School officials there in the Houston area are receiving those reports of an active shooter at Santa Fe High School. That is directly between downtown Houston and Galveston, Texas.

Officials at the school district confirming that this morning that an incident occurred at a high school involving an active shooter. That's what they're describing it as.

The district has initiated a lockdown right now. And authorities there at the Santa Fe School District saying that they will send out information as soon as it becomes available.

Poppy, as you may imagine, this happened not too long ago, a very fluid situation that's taking place right now at the Santa Fe school district.

We do not know yet if there were any reported injuries. We do not know yet if a suspect or suspects are in custody. This is all information that we're trying to track down.

But, again, this information, very preliminary right now. Authorities at that Texas school district confirming reports of an active shooter about 30 minutes ago at the Santa Fe High School located just outside of Houston, Poppy.

Actively digging for more information. As soon as any more information comes in, we're going to pass that along to you.

HARLOW: All right, Polo. I'll let you do that and make those calls. Let's go to our Tom Fuentes, our senior law enforcement analyst and formerly, of course, with the FBI and knows far too much about these horrific events.

Tom, it's 8:20 in the morning there. And these reports started coming in about half an hour ago, so that would be just at the beginning of the school day, about 7:50 a.m. local time. This is a high school of about 1,400 students, grades 9 through 12.

Again, all we know is an active shooter. What would be going on in these early moments?

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Poppy, the first thing is to determine if they really have an active shooter. You have so much chaos in the beginning of these events and sometimes all the way through it.

But in the very beginning, there's a lot of false information that goes out, there's a lot of confusion. Is there a shooter? If there is a shooter, is he or she still on campus still posing a danger to others? Or has fled the area, maybe other areas in town should be locked down as well. So, that's the first thing.

Are there injured people inside that school that need medical attention? Has anybody been wounded or seriously injured or even killed by a shooter, if there is a shooter?

So, there's a great deal of necessity on the part of the authorities to try to protect everybody on that school campus. And at the same time, get to the bottom of what exactly they have. Do they really have a shooter? Is there a danger still being posed to members of the community and people at that school?

HARLOW: We do know, Tom, that the district has initiated a lockdown. Now, that seems to happen early on, even when they're not certain about a shooting as a precautionary measure, correct?

FUENTES: Yes. And part of the reason too is that, they would like the students that are there to take cover, get under desks, do what they can to try to shelter themselves.

And also to try to avoid the massive confusion of having 1,400 students come pouring out of the exits while the police come in and try to figure out if the shooter, if there was one, is one of the people exiting the building.

It just makes it that much harder to determine who the good guys are, who the bad guys are. All of the important initial readings that the police have to take.

HARLOW: Tom Fuentes, thank you for that. We're waiting to get more information on this. Of course, we'll bring it to you as soon as we do. Tom, stay close.

So, also this morning, Rudy Giuliani is on the attack, sitting down with our Chris Cuomo for a long interview, going after the FBI and the Justice Department. Listen to this.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: And explain to me why they even need an interview with the president if it isn't to try to trap him into perjury.

You get bad people in the FBI, mostly good people. You get bad people in Justice. You get bad people in both parties. Yes, we get bad people. And it's my job to flush them out. It is a witch hunt.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, "NEW DAY": Well, then why would (INAUDIBLE)?

GIULIANI: Maybe he doesn't want to get involved, maybe he wants to look like he's independent. Maybe mistakenly -

CUOMO: Maybe he's right? How about that?

GIULIANI: He's wrong. I know more about the case than he does.


HARLOW: All right. Let's discuss this with Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. He's also on the House Intel and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thank you for being here. And before we get to this, our thoughts are with the people of Texas. This is not your district. But are you hearing anything about this report of an active shooter at the Santa Fe High School? REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Poppy, I haven't. As I've been standing here, preparing for the interview, I was told about what was happening. And, of course, we don't know all the details yet, but this is another example of gun violence in schools and it's a shame that the United States Congress where I'm standing now has done nothing to protect our students.

HARLOW: We will let you know as soon as we have more information as well, congressman. As I wait for that, I want you to weigh in on some of these other topics.

[09:25:08] I'm not sure if you heard the whole interview with Chris Cuomo and Rudy Giuliani this morning, but there were some significant headlines.

And one thing that became very clear from the interview, the attacks on James Comey, is that this seems to be the strategy, to pit the honesty of James Comey against the honesty of the president if he does sit down for an interview with Bob Mueller's team. Wise strategy?

CASTRO: I don't think so. The president is probably the person in Washington who's told the most falsehoods and lies over the last few years, more than anybody else. So, I don't think you can put the president's honesty against just about anybody's honesty because the other person wins.

But I do agree that what Rudy Giuliani is trying to do is not really win the argument or even be right or correct, he's just trying to muddy the waters politically. And it's not just Rudy Giuliani, but it's also other Trump friends and associates who are trying to accomplish the same thing for the president.

HARLOW: Listen, though, to what Rudy Giuliani said about the honesty of the president. He said it over and over again, that the president is not going to lie when he sits down with Bob Mueller. Let's listen to Giuliani on that.


GIULIANI: A perjury trap is when - just when you're not telling the truth. A perjury trap is when you get somebody to lie about what you're telling the truth.

Which is, the president would testify tomorrow if it was about the truth. The truth is, he had nothing to do with Russia. I was on that campaign. He didn't talk to Russians. He had nothing to do with Russia.

CUOMO: Why won't he just sit down and say that?

GIULIANI: Because you've got people that are going to ask him questions about, what did you say to him, what did you say to him.

You've got Comey coming forward, who will lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: He also went on to say, look, the president is not going to lie, let's get that straight.

He sees the Mueller team's interview request as a perjury trap for the president. He points to Judge Ellis' comments, a federal judge a few weeks ago said to the prosecutor on Mueller's team in the Manafort case essentially, look, you're just going after Manafort to get the president.

What do you make of Giuliani's argument?

CASTRO: Well, the first thing is that President Trump, Donald Trump, owes the American people to sit down with Robert Mueller and answer questions about this investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election. He should do that.

And now, I know that just in every other case, there's often a negotiation about the scope of what's going to be asked, so I think that's fair. But most of all, he needs to sit down with Robert Mueller and answer questions.

HARLOW: "The Washington Post" is reporting, as you've read this morning, I'm sure, that it's not only the president, it's the president's allies in Congress, it's the president's allies on the outside that are stepping up their efforts significantly.

And you see it in the president's tweets, to out this FBI confidential informant. The president chooses to use the word "spy" to describe this person, even though this is routine in a counterintelligence investigation.

This is from the early days of the Russia investigation during the election. So, you on the intel committee have said our investigation wasn't a real investigation, this was a kindergarten investigation, we didn't get the information we needed.

As you know, what the president wants, what Devin Nunes wants is for the scope memo to be released that would lay out the people, the issues underlying the Mueller probe.

I assume you don't agree with that, but my question is wouldn't getting that provide more information to your committee? Do you support that effort in any way?

CASTRO: Look, I've supported this process being as transparent as possible. So, the more information that will help the committee, the better.

HARLOW: So, you support the release of that scope memo, at least your committee, just to be clear?

CASTRO: Well, I support receiving information that's important to the committee's work, but also, bear in mind, it's not going to put somebody's life in jeopardy.

And that's been one of the questions here, one of the issues, whether the information that's being asked about is going to put some individual's life in jeopardy. So, that's a whole other consideration.

But I would also ask, as Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani are asking and Devin Nunes pushing for transparency, that they release every single transcript of the witnesses that came in front of our committee and testified, so that the American people can read through them themselves or the summaries and make their own decisions about what they think this campaign was up to.

HARLOW: As we got from the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week. Congressman, I have to let you go because we do have more breaking news on this school shooting in your home state. We are hoping for the best. We've got to get to some more information in just a moment.

Again, reports of an active shooter in a high school in Texas, in Santa Fe, Texas, about an hour southeast of Houston. Much more after the break.