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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Meets With Rod Rosenstein and Christopher Wray. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 21, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Former Trump campaign Paul Manafort lost a battle in his ongoing legal proceedings.

He had attempted to have one of the charges for failure to report a foreign bank account dropped. He said the statute of limitations had gone. As it turns out, Robert Mueller, thinking of that, had gone through some court proceedings to extend that statute of limitations, in part because Cyprus banks had not reported all the information.

On the bigger issue of his trial going forward, you will remember that the D.C. court judge involved, federal judge involved in this case last week said that this case, the Manafort case falls very much under her interpretation of the special counsel's investigation.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

How much trouble might Donald Trump Jr.'s second meeting with foreign nationals offering to help the campaign get him into with the special counsel?

Stay with us. We will talk about it with the panel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're back with the panel talking about the Trump Tower meeting possibly on Robert Mueller's radar.

"The New York Times" says that, in August 2016, businessman George Nader met with Trump Jr. and pitched help to the Trump campaign from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

[16:35:02]

I'm back with the panel.

I want you guys to take a listen to Senator Mark Warner. He's the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Here is how he reacted Sunday morning when I asked him about that reporting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I don't understand what the president doesn't get about the law that says, if you have a foreign nation interfere in an American election, that is illegal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, we don't know if there actually was any follow-through. Donald Trump Jr. says no.

There was an Israeli at this meeting who talked about using social media to help the president. Who knows what the reality is. We have obviously been lied to by this cast before.

But it is weird that they keep meeting with people from other countries -- or they kept meeting with people from other countries saying we want to help your campaign. That is not allowed.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: It is also weird that the other countries wanted to meet with them.

So, this just isn't something that really happens on presidential campaigns. Why did these countries think that they would be open to meeting with them? It is not clear to me, because, again, it is just -- it is illegal to coordinate with another country, regardless if it is being presented to you by an American or by somebody who -- even if they were completely legit, if they came to you and said I'm working for Saudi Arabia and they want to influence the election, that would be illegal.

So -- and, again, you can't -- so, Donald Jr. days nothing to see here. But he said there was nothing to see here with the other meeting.

TAPPER: With the Russia meeting.

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: That it was about adoption. And it wasn't about adoption. So you really can't believe anything that they're saying.

TAPPER: David, you were working the Trump campaign. You're in Pennsylvania.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.

TAPPER: I don't doubt that you knew nothing about these meetings, and that certainly weren't any -- any representatives of Saudi Arabia telling you how you can win Pittsburgh.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: But doesn't it concern you that you...

URBAN: No.

Listen, so we're assuming, right, George Nader -- if the Saudis or the folks from the UAE wanted to talk to somebody, they would talk to them directly. But George Nader wanted to meet with Trump Jr., not the Saudis. We're

taking somebody's word here that sent an e-mail that wants to be an important to a campaign. He's trying to puff up his own credentials. This happens.

You know how many people call and say, I want to help, here's what I want to do, I can offer this? I'm not saying that -- I don't know the context for the -- I don't have the e-mail. I haven't seen the e-mail that said let's have this meeting, but George Nader represented it.

I think I would be very careful that the Saudis or anybody from the UAE wanted to interfere in this election. That is just a bridge too far.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It's a simple -- let's make sure we understand. Let me be a little bit Solomonic here and divide the baby.

TAPPER: Please do.

MUDD: That is, look, it is a judgment call, and I think an inappropriate judgment call, an ethical question, about whether the son of the president should be meeting with someone from overseas in a potential conversation like the conversation with the Russian lawyer about accepting information from overseas.

That is not what happened here. I think what happened here was a questionable judgment call. But the real question Mueller would look at is, what of value did the campaign receive?

So, there can be all these allegations, including from Senator Warner -- and I think he is incorrect -- about whether something illegal happened. Meeting with somebody in an ethically questionable meeting is not illegal. We don't do ethics at Department of Justice and the FBI. We do law.

URBAN: And, look, it is one person's representation here, George Nader, again, I think puffing it up. There is going to be nothing there.

TAPPER: How concerned are you that the midterms or the presidential election of 2020 will be interfered with one way or another for one side or another?

It doesn't seem as though there are the safeguards that have been put up that need to be put up. The Russians clearly tried to interfere. We know that. The U.S. Intelligence Committee says that.

Whether or not there was collusion, conspiracy, that is yet to be determined. But it doesn't seem as though the U.S. government or even Congress is focused on making sure it doesn't happen again.

POWERS: Right. Right. No, they are not. I think everybody should be concerned.

They haven't -- the president hasn't made this a priority. The DOJ hasn't made this a priority because the president hasn't made it a priority. And so I think there is no reason to think that it's not going to happen again. It worked out great for them before.

Can I just say one other thing on this meeting? It's just we aren't even talking about the fact that they met with Erik Prince, who has had to rename his company.

TAPPER: Former CIA -- CEO of Blackwater.

POWERS: Well, of Blackwater, which has had to be renamed three times, because it is so controversial.

So it is just -- like, why do they -- why are they meeting with Erik Prince?

TAPPER: Erik Prince is a big supporter of the president.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: It is not illegal to meet with Erik Prince.

POWERS: No, no, I just think the fact that Erik Prince is involved in this makes it extra sketchy. You know what I mean?

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: Again, why has he had to rename his company two times?

URBAN: I'm not going to -- I can't answer that.

But let me just push back on the narrative that the intelligence community has done nothing to prevent this.

Phil knows and can probably speak to it better than anybody at this table, but I'm certain that the folks at the CIA, FBI, counterterrorism and this government is doing everything they can to preclude meddling in the next election.

TAPPER: I hope you're right.

(CROSSTALK)

We have some breaking news right now. I want to get your reaction.

We're learning a little bit more about the president's meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in which they were set to discuss, among matters, the president's concerns about this FBI source who met with at least three Trump campaign staffers during the investigation in 2016.

[16:40:00]

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders just released a statement -- quote -- "Based on the meeting with the president, the Department of Justice has asked the inspector general to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigations or the Department of Justice's tactics concerning the Trump campaign. It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ and DNI."

That is the director -- office of director of national intelligence -- "together with congressional leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested."

Phil, your reaction?

MUDD: This is a punt.

Look, you can be -- if you're the deputy attorney general -- the attorney general -- the deputy attorney general -- obviously has recused himself.

You can either go frontal with the president and say no, or you can say, I think -- and I would agree with what he did here -- look, we're going to have people who are experts.

And inside, let me tell you, the inspector general is not viewed as soft. They are viewed a hammer. We are going to have the inspector general review this and then we're going to have other people look at the question of whether we owe more documents to the Congress.

This is a punt by people who could not go full frontal with the president and say no. I think it's perfectly appropriate.

TAPPER: So you are saying Rosenstein and the FBI director, Christopher Wray, couldn't say to President Trump, I can't help you at all, we're refusing, so they came up with this idea to save face for the president?

MUDD: No, I think if you look at the inspector general's responsibility, it is whether to determine internal operations are done appropriately.

Typically, you don't have another executive agency official saying, hey, why don't you investigate yourself? In this case, they are not going to have a Twitter war with the president over whether they spied on the campaign.

They're going to say, OK, what the heck? The inspector general will look at it and if he finds nothing, he finds nothing.

URBAN: Yes, just hold on a second.

Do you think that is appropriate for the inspector? Don't you think they should look at it? Don't you think the I.G. should kind of turn over the rocks?

MUDD: I don't think the president should have asked.

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: But you think they should do it on their own?

MUDD: No.

TAPPER: All right.

We're going to talk more about Sarah Sanders' statement coming up.

Stay with us. We are going to take a really quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. This is just in. Vice President Pence is applauding the decision made by the Inspector General saying "the President I think is grateful that the Department of Justice is going have the Inspector General look into the allegation that there was a confidential source implanted in the Trump campaign in 2016." And Pence continued, determine and ensure that there was no surveillance done for political purpose against our campaign. Again, the news President Trump having a meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the Director of the FBI Christopher Wray. After the meeting, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement about this meeting saying, "based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand the investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Justice Department or the Justice Department's tactics concerning the Trump Campaign. It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly who will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, Department of Justice under Office of the Director of the National Intelligence together with congressional leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested. Kirsten, before the break, Phil is saying the President shouldn't requesting any of this information. It's inappropriate for him to be telling the Department of Justice or the FBI to do anything.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It's totally inappropriate. I mean, I did think it was interested that you said that I guess it's OK for them to be punting it. I mean, do you think it is OK? Or -- because I feel like everybody is buying into this craziness. That he is saying that someone infiltrated his campaign. Nobody infiltrated his campaign. And now they're going to -- even if they are just kicking the can like they're doing this I.G. thing to investigate something that didn't happen. I mean, does anybody else --

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, look, I think it speaks to the credibility -- everybody is talking about credibility of elections. I think the American people would like to hear about this so let's look at it. If there is nothing there, it would be no harm no foul.

POWERS: This is the thing. The "let's look at it. It is an investigation -- it's an official investigation at DOJ. It is not like -- it's not like --

URBAN: Right. That's why it's proper. It's a presidential election.

POWERS: But the idea that you're just sort of throw this out and the President has put the pressure on the DOJ to do something that's, A, inappropriate and, B, didn't happen is a problem.

URBAN: What B didn't happen?

POWERS: Nobody infiltrated his campaign.

URBAN: Saying you -- I mean, let's --

POWER: No, I'm saying the world.

URBAN: Who's the world?

TAPPER: Well, the reporting says that there was a confidential source, somebody who does work for the FBI who met with three people who work for the Trump Campaign, presumably to sought out whether or not they're not -- I mean, you explain Phil how this goes.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I mean, yes. Look, if you are running an investigation and you have, as we spoke about before, predicated information that says somebody says something inappropriate to an Australian diplomat, that as we know about WikiLeaks information, you're going to investigate that at the FBI. The way you investigate it is to say, do I have anybody that knows the people who are talking about that. Yes, we call that an informant. Now, this is a presidential campaign. If it weren't a presidential campaign, let me tell you something, Jake, this is dime a dozen.

URBAN: Yes, I agree. I agree. If it wasn't a presidential campaign --

TAPPER: But it's not the same thing as --

POWERS: What was the infiltration?

TAPPER: Infiltrating is the point Kirsten is making.

MUDD: Well, infiltrate --

POWERS: You went inside of the campaign, right?

MUDD: I don't -- what I -- I mean, the least of language here is significant. For example, the President said spying on the campaign. That tells me you're trying to look at their electoral strategy. What they're trying to look for is once George Papadopoulos spoke to the Australian diplomat, is there information that suggests that's there is fire behind that smoke. He's -- that informant is not there saying, what is your strategy against Hillary Clinton? They're not spying on the campaign, they're trying to determine whether the investigation is appropriate.

POWERS: Well, it's also this idea that if -- let's just say that if the Trump Campaign was doing something that was problematic and the FBI is not allowed to investigate that. I mean, this is --

[16:50:01] URBAN: No, I'm not saying it.

POWERS: But if we just back up before we go further and just decide what infiltration means because my understanding of infiltration would be somebody that is actually posing as a campaign worker inside the campaign --

URBAN: They were posing as a --

POWERS: And was like getting information. That's infiltration.

URBAN: Right. That's what happened. So they were posing at someone --

POWERS: That's not -- no.

TAPPER: We don't know this person was on the staff. We know that that this person had meetings --

POWERS: Had meetings.

URBAN: Right, but he was an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. government.

POWERS: But that's not infiltration.

URBAN: And he was posing as something he wasn't. Somebody who wanted to help --

TAPPER: Well, here is a question, David. If any -- take Trump out of this for one second. If any campaign has somebody who has meetings with individuals with contacts with the Kremlin and it comes to American intelligence that they're claiming that they have contacts with the Russians, shouldn't the FBI investigate it?

URBAN: I don't -- I'm not saying they shouldn't. I think we just need to understand the parameters. Who asked for it, what are they looking for, who ordered it, when it stopped, when it began? I mean, that not -- that's not even unreasonable.

MUDD: There is a context here. The context is we go into an election where the president coming out of the election says three million people voted. Should we investigate that? should we investigate the wiretap at Trump Tower -- I don't think so.

TAPPER: All right, everyone stick around. What does Senator John McCain want the country to know? His message, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: In our "POLITICS LEAD," it is frankly difficult to comprehend how President Trump and the White House are allowing what could be the last days of Senator John McCain's life to be marred by the cruel and sick joke by White House aide Kelly Sadler about McCain's battle with brain cancer with a notable lack of public apology. But in many ways, perhaps it is symbolic of the world we're now in, a world where meanness is seen as stronger than empathy, a world where blind loyalty is of greater value than honor. Tomorrow, McCain's latest and likely last book will be published. Dana Bash sat down with McCain's Co-Author Mark Salter. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There are more partisan, more trivial --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: John McCain wanted to give this speech about Senate dysfunction before his brain cancer diagnosis last summer. Then long-time aide and speech writer and friend Mark Salter got a call from McCain with a sudden urgency.

MARK SALTER, MCCAIN COLLABORATOR: And you come out here, what's the story? And I said, John, here's what I want to say in the speech, and I said, have you gotten the results back? You know, what is it? He said, it is not good.

BASH: Salter rushed to Arizona. They finished the speech on the flight back to D.C.

MCCAIN: What have we to lose by trying to work together?

SALTER: They all stayed in their chairs for the speech. That had never happen in his career and it meant a great deal to him.

BASH: McCain and Salter were already working on their seventh book together which instantly took a reflective turn.

SALTER: He wanted to be more personal. And to convey just how fortunate he believed he was from being able to serve his country for 60 years.

BASH: The result, The Restless Wave.

MCCAIN: I want to talk to my fellow Americans a little more if I may. My fellow Americans, no association ever mattered more to me --

BASH: This book allows McCain to tie up some loose ends publicly admitting for the first time that during his 2008 Presidential run, Joe Lieberman was his first choice for the running mate.

BASH: We all knew it, covering him. But him saying it is a whole different thing.

SALTER: His aides among them and myself had persuaded him that it wouldn't be possible.

BASH: They told McCain putting a Democrat turned independent on a Republican Presidential ticket would spark a convention revolt.

SALTER: He wanted to pick Joe Lieberman but he has never expressed any regret, not privately nor certainly publicly about picking Governor Palin.

BASH: McCain also explains being approached in 2016 with the now famous dossier about Donald Trump.

SALTER: He went over to see the FBI Director at his earliest convenience and delivered it to him and said, I assume you will vet this.

BASH: I discharged that obligation and I would do it again, anyone who doesn't like it can go to hell.

SALTER: I wrote that but he said it just that way.

BASH: For over 30 years, Salter has helped McCain convey his essence.

BASH: You've written a lot of words for and with John McCain. What do you think the most important are?

SALTER: We are born to love and we're born to have the courage for it, so be brave. The rest is easy. I thought that was the most McCain-esque thing he ever said.

BASH: That or maybe this in the final chapter.

MCCAIN: We need each other. We need friends in the world and they need us. The bell tolls for us, my friends.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: That of course is a reference to For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, McCain's favorite book. The fictional protagonist Robert Jordan is a larger than life romantic war hero, a north star for McCain, his whole life. And Jake, in the last full page of this book, after talking about how lucky he is been to live with great passions, to fight a war, to make peace, he said the following quote from Hemingway's Robert Jordan. He says, "the world is a fine place and worth fighting for, and I hate very much to leave it."

TAPPER: Dana Bash, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BASH: Thank you.

TAPPER: Make sure you pick up a copy of my novel the Hellfire Club at Amazon.com or your local bookstore. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That is it for THE LEAD. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, showdown with justice.