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Trump Demands DOJ Find Out If It Or The FBI Spied On Campaign; Lava From Hawaiian Volcano Reaches Pacific Ocean; WAPO: Trump Asked Postmaster General To Raise Rates On Amazon; Group Pushes Young People To Get Out And Vote In Midterms. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 21, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:32] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

If you're following Twitter this morning, you know that the President of the United States has used Twitter to demand the Justice Department launch a probe into whether it or the FBI spied on his campaign. This follows reports that the FBI relied on a confidential source who spoke with some Trump campaign aides about possible ties to Russia.

Let's discuss the latest with CNN national security analyst James Clapper. Of course, the former director of national intelligence and author of a new book, "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From A Life In Intelligence."

Good to see you as always, sir.


CUOMO: The president doesn't like it -- orders the DOJ, investigate.

You OK with that?

CLAPPER: No, I'm not. I think that's actually a very disturbing assault on the independence of the Department of Justice. And I think when the president -- this president or any president tries to use the Department of Justice as kind of a private investigatory body that's not good for the country.

CUOMO: So their argument is pretty clear, which is it's not about me, it's about we. They're spying on me, they could spy on anybody. This is dirty tricks. This is deep state.

This is the surveillance that he feels happened in his Trump Tower even though we don't have any proof of it. It's how they look at the FISA warrants. Dirty deeds and he's going to look into it.

It'll get political currency. He does have members of his party who back this.

What's your concerns about the probe? CLAPPER: Well, for exactly the same reason, politicizing what is a legitimate activity on the part of -- an important one on the part of the FBI. They use informants and have strict rules and protocols under this.

But the big -- the big thing here is this is not about spying on his campaign. It's about what the Russians are doing. Were they attempting to infiltrate the campaign? And that was the concern and that was, and my -- and my belief is what the focus of this whole activity was about.

CUOMO: Why do it that way? If the concern was the Russians are trying to get to the Trump folk, why not go to them openly?

CLAPPER: Well, this is one of many techniques you can observe -- you can use or bring to bear -- the FBI can -- in the interest of determining whether there was active efforts on the part -- by the Russians to infiltrate the campaign, whether it was his campaign or any other campaign.

The important thing here is a foreign nation, particularly an adversary, trying to influence a political campaign and that's not good for the country. In fact, we ought to think about it as part of the effort of the FBI to keep the nation safe and secure and protect our voting process.

CUOMO: Donald Trump, Jr. went to a second meeting. This time, not with Russians as far as we know, but some United Arab Emirates representatives and others in a meeting that was supposedly about foreign powers helping in a U.S. election.

This is the second time. Is this something that was just about discretion because they say nothing came of it, and if nothing came of it is that good enough?

CLAPPER: Well, it's bothersome in seeking help from any foreign nation, adversary or not, to help influence or support a political campaign. That's just -- that's very disturbing the fact they were seeking help. The fact that nothing came of it, OK.

But to me, the fact that there was outreach here in an effort to engage a foreign government or governments for aid and assistance, financial or otherwise, is not good.

CUOMO: Not a crime, though.

CLAPPER: I don't know about what the specifics of -- whether it's criminal activity or not. But just philosophically, conceptually, I don't think it's good for our country to have involvement of foreign countries and I speak about this in the book particularly with respect to the Russians.

CUOMO: "Facts and Fears" is the new book. I want to read an excerpt of it -- of the context of why you wanted to write this. You believe that there's so much pressure on people who want to do things the right way. "A young woman asked me, somewhat urgently. What are we supposed to

do now?

It took me a moment to get my head around the doubt and uncertainty underlying the question before I could respond, and then I told her and her colleagues the only thing I could say.

Keep doing the business of intelligence. Keep shoveling intelligence coal down in the engine room and let the people on the bridge worry about what direction we're headed, how fast we're going, and how to arrange the deck chairs.

[07:35:17] Keep our mission in front of us and stay true to the key tenets of intelligence work."

This goes to your concern that the overall culture of intelligence work is going to be -- fall victim to the political plays at the top.

CLAPPER: Well, I do worry about that and I think that actually places a heavy burden -- a heavier burden than ever before on our Intelligence Community's leaders to provide the top cover so that the rank-and-file workers -- the employees in the Intelligence Community continue to serve up truth to power even if the power doesn't listen to the truth.

CUOMO: This is a naked political play that is working for the president on some levels.

As you know, you come from a culture that people don't trust, right? We don't know what you're doing --


CUOMO: -- we never really know -- spook work. You know, all these other derisives and pejorative terms for it.

He's playing on that and it resonates. Not easy to combat.

CLAPPER: You're right, Chris, it is and that is -- that does characterize the image -- the optics of intelligence work which is necessarily secretive because of the importance of protecting sources, and methods, and people.

That's one reason why congressional oversight is so important. You know, the Intelligence Community is not like the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Interior because everything they do is essentially transparent.

Not so in the Intelligence Community so that places a greater burden on the Intelligence Oversight committees, one of whom is pretty much fractionated because of partisanship. And that's not -- that's not good -- that's not healthy for the Intelligence Community.

The Senate Intelligence Committee -- I'm very gratified to point out recently announced validating the findings of the Intelligence Community assessment of January of '17, which was very gratifying to us -- those of us who did it.

And they did so, importantly, on a bipartisan basis. And those committees are not really credible unless they -- within the Intelligence Community unless they're bipartisan.

CUOMO: How worried are you about the impact of these inspector general reports that are coming out, whether it was the one about McCabe or how the Clinton probes were handled? If there's a lot of stink laid by, you know -- an Obama appointee, by the way, who is doing this I.G. report --


CUOMO: -- and that the people at the top weren't doing things the right way, it's going to validate the president's theories and it's going to hurt the I.C.

CLAPPER: Well, it could. We'll have to see what comes out.

Inspector generals are one of the strong features of our system. They are independent apart from subordination of the organization they're looking at -- a very important feature. And so, when the truth comes out we'll learn from that and hopefully if there are lessons to be applied they'll be applied.

CUOMO: Well, there is a new vocabulary and there is a new set of homework for people who want to understand the country and what's going on right now with this Russia probe.

And this book is going to be high on the list for many people because you go into the culture of intelligence work, what the threats are, why it's being dealt with this way, and how politics may infect those efforts.

"Facts and Fears" -- that's the book by James Clapper.

Thank you very much for joining us as always, sir.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right -- Pop.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, and congrats to Director Clapper on the book.

Meantime, there are major threats this morning, again on Hawaii's Big Island. Lava has begun pouring into the Pacific Ocean. Why that could be deadly, next.


[07:43:00] HARLOW: Well, that volcano eruption in Hawaii continues. Look at those stunning pictures. It creates more and more danger for people in Hawaii as the days go by.

Lava has reached the Pacific Ocean, creating what's called a laze. Ever heard of that? I certainly hadn't. It sends a hydrochloric acid and volcanic gas particles into the air.

Let's get more from our meteorologist Chad Myers. A laze.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Poppy. They kind of put lava and haze together and made the word laze. It is when the lava -- it's so hot. It gets into the water and instantly boils that water.

So you have sodium and chloride -- the salt that's in the ocean water -- immediately getting into vapor. And so, that turns into a -- some kind of a hydrochloric acid and you don't want to be breathing that.

Also, it shatters itself and makes very small particles of glass in the air itself, too. You can see it on that video. The video is spectacular. I mean, just to look at that lava hitting the ocean was pretty amazing.

Also, something else -- it's the sulfuric acid still coming out of the lava itself as we go across all of Hawaii itself. Three times more SO2 gas in the air than really what should be or what is when the volcano is not erupting.

So, a couple of things going on there.

And you need to stay away from this laze. It is deadly. It has killed people in the past -- Chris.

CUOMO: The place looks like Mordor -- you know --


CUOMO: -- the pictures there.

MYERS: Right.

CUOMO: I would have gone -- if you're going to combine haze and lava I would have gone with hala because that is a really desperate situation. Send the message --


CUOMO: -- to get up out of there if you're anywhere near it.

Chad Myers, thank you very much.

All right.

The Vegas Golden Knights, once a 500 to one longshot to win the Stanley Cup -- they're now just four wins away from doing it.

Lindsay Czarniak has more in the morning's "Bleacher Report." Against all odds.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Right. You wouldn't even believe it if this was a movie. It seems so unreal.

Listen to this. The Golden Knights are the first expansion team in the four major sports to post a winning record. That's just tough to fathom. This is a team of players who felt they were unwanted by other teams.

It's also a team that helped its city heal after the mass shooting at a Vegas concert that killed 58 people in October. This team made the promise before its first game, which was less than a week after the shooting, to do whatever it could to help families of those victims push through.

[07:45:10] They have shocked the world. Yesterday, the Knights beating the Jets 2-1, advancing to the Stanley Cup final. Vegas now just four wins away from hoisting Lord Stanley's cup.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, as well as his teammates, saying that this team has played with a sense of responsibility. They are so excited about where they are.

And meantime, the Warriors and Rockets with a tribute of their own for victims of the latest mass shooting. The teams holding a moment of silence for Santa Fe High School near Houston before game three last night.

Once the game began, Warriors star Steph Curry channeling his emotions, turning in 35 points. He was so in the zone.

Watch closely. He doesn't curse often, right, but look at what he says here after that big shot, right? Curry saying, "This is my house" so to speak.

The defending champions blowing out the Rockets by 41 points, taking a 2-1 series lead.

So a very interesting twist of events there. We'll see what plays out.

CUOMO: Knee's better.

HARLOW: Yes, you can see, right? Lately, no problem.

CUOMO: Thanks, Lindsay, appreciate it.

HARLOW: Appreciate it. All right.

So, "The Washington Post" is reporting that President Trump met with the postmaster general and pushed her to try to get Amazon to pay the postal service a lot more to ship its good. Why does that matter? Well, is it crossing a line if the president did that because he has a beef with the founder of Amazon?

The former head of the Office of Government Ethics sure thinks so. He'll make the case, next.


[07:50:49] HARLOW: So, "The Washington Post" reports President Trump has personally pushed for the postmaster general to double the rates it charges Amazon and other firms to ship packages. Why does that matter?

It gets a whole lot more interesting because Amazon is owned by Jeff Bezos who also owns "The Washington Post" and you know the president doesn't love a lot of "The Washington Post" reporting on him. And there is no love lost between Bezos and President Trump.

Joining us now is CNN contributor Walter Shaub. He is the former director of the Office of Government Ethics and is currently the senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center.

It's nice to have you here, sir.

So let me begin with this. You make the argument this is an attack on the First Amendment. Why?

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF ETHICS, CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Well, it's very concerning because the president has been actively tweeting over the past year about "The Washington Post," about Jeff Bezos, about Amazon.

He's revealed his motive which is to harm Jeff Bezos because he also owns "The Washington Post."

HARLOW: Maybe or Walter, the counterpunch to that is look, the USPS has been losing billions of dollars a year. It relies on $15 billion in loans from Treasury. That hurts the American taxpayer. Eleven straight years of not being profitable.

This is the dealmaker president. I'm just going to go in and I'm going to have a one-on-one meeting with the postmaster general and I'm going to get us a better deal.

Why is it not that?

SHAUB: Well, it would be more plausible if he didn't pick an arbitrary number like double its rates. And, Amazon's not the reason the postal service is losing money. The postmaster, herself, indicated that they are benefitting from that deal.

In addition, the fact that the president thinks that the postmaster can unilaterally raise rates in these conditions shows that he hasn't done any research and doesn't know what he's talking about.

HARLOW: How serious is it if, indeed, this is simply because of politics? This is because of a personal vendetta that the president may have against Jeff Bezos and wants to hurt his company which is now the second-largest American company in terms of market cap.

Would there be any legal lines crossed?

SHAUB: I don't know if there are necessarily lines in every case. This isn't the first time he may have used power for his own benefit. But it runs contrary to the very concept of a republic.

We're in a society where our leaders are supposed to serve us and we entrust them with great power. They're supposed to use that power solely for us and not to help themselves. That's, quite frankly, what kings do. We're not subjects, we're citizens.

HARLOW: Right, but to help him you would have to follow the logic then that somehow eating into Amazon's profitability would then hurt Jeff Bezos and "The Washington Post" because Bezos owns "The Washington Post," which I should note is a privately-held company, right? Amazon is a publicly-held company.

But some might have a hard time seeing the through-line there.

SHAUB: Yes. I'm not sure that the goal is to directly hurt "The Washington Post." I think the goal is to put enough of a squeeze on Jeff Bezos that maybe he reins in the "Post" which he owns and which --

HARLOW: But --

SHAUB: -- as you point out is privately-held.

HARLOW: But he has no -- I mean, he, Jeff Bezos has come out -- the editors of "The Washington Post" -- and time and time again pointed out that Bezos has zero involvement in the editorial decisions of the "Post."

SHAUB: Yes, that's by choice, though.


SHAUB: And it's a good choice. But I think the president's goal is to change that.

HARLOW: It's the right choice.

SHAUB: Yes, that's right.

HARLOW: It's a necessary choice.

But something interesting that Jeff Bezos doesn't give a lot of interviews, right, but he gave this interview to "Business Insider" in April of this year. And one thing that was interesting he said -- and he said look, because Amazon is now one of the largest corporations in the world, he said quote, "I expect us to be scrutinized. We should be scrutinized."

So, how is this not just the president scrutinizing Amazon to try to benefit the American taxpayer?

SHAUB: I do think he's right. I think there are concerns about any company that large in having that theta market share.

But this isn't being done in a public forum. This isn't a congressional hearing. This isn't a study the president has commissioned.

These were secret meetings that didn't show up on the president's official agenda --

HARLOW: Three of them.

SHAUB: -- and were only discovered -- yes, and they were only discovered as a result of leaks. And so, this is anything but trying to explore the facts and get to the truth.

HARLOW: So, one of the -- one of the folks who was very close to the president on all things economy and money was Gary Cohn. He's gone now. And he was one of the people that reportedly was one of the biggest defenders of Amazon in this White House.

[07:55:10] Now that he is gone, where do you see this -- I don't know what you call it -- beef, fight, whatever between Bezos and the president going, and the implications for the average American?

SHAUB: Poppy, I'm sorry, your audio cut out but I think you're asking me that when Gary Cohn left he had been concerned about this. Is that right?

HARLOW: Gary Cohn was one of the biggest proponents of Amazon and sort of laying off Amazon in the White House. He's gone now --

SHAUB: Right.

HARLOW: -- so what does that mean?

SHAUB: Well, you know, that may be a factor in terms of why the president feels he has a free hand to do this.

But the truth is there ought to be people in the White House, particularly the counsel to the president, who are cautioning him that the traditions of the White House are such that a president doesn't try to use power for his own benefit and I believe that is what he's doing. And so, there's really responsibility on these other officials to persuade him to rein this in.

HARLOW: One thing we know for sure, the journalists at "The Washington Post" are the best of the best and they are never going to stray away from just reporting the facts as they are.

SHAUB: Yes, thank goodness -- yes.

HARLOW: Nice to have you, Walter. Thank you.

SHAUB: Thanks.

HARLOW: Chris --

CUOMO: All right, Poppy.

An advocacy group is pushing to get more young people to vote in the 2018 elections. The group has millions of dollars in financial backing, but will it be enough to have any major effect on the midterms.

We're doing a story on this for you. CNN's Jason Carroll has it.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Demonstrators, many of them young, spurred on by the shooting at Parkland High School, have called for action at the ballot box this fall. That energy running up against a political reality that young voters regularly drop off between presidential and midterm elections.

Enter NextGen America, a progressive advocacy group that is focused on mobilizing young voters this year.

ALEIGHA CAVALIER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, NEXTGEN AMERICA: Our goal here is to get candidates in these primary races to talk about issues that matter to young people. So often, candidates ignore these issues like cost of college, racial injustice, affordable health care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support a woman's right to choose?

CARROLL: The group is hitting college campuses, holding events in 11 states.

The effort is funded by billionaire activist Tom Steyer, a 60-year-old former hedge fund executive who has become a leading voice in calling for the impeachment of President Trump.

TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEXTGEN AMERICA: Donald Trump's election awoke a sleeping giant.

CARROLL: Steyer says he's willing to spend $30 million of his own money to turn out young voters.

STEYER: Will I ever regret that? Not in a million years. This is the most impactful, effective, and positive thing that we can be doing in in 2018 is to make sure that young voters are involved, are aware of how important they are, and that they can change the country.

CARROLL: On this date, NextGen has come to Santa Clarita, California, a suburb north of Los Angeles.

It's home to the state's 25 Congressional District represented by Republican Steve Knight. He won reelection by six points in 2016, even as Hillary Clinton carried the district by seven points.

Democrats are hoping to flip the seat come November with some help from young voters.

LIAM MURPHY, FIRST-TIME VOTER: I know a lot of people who were friends and then all this 2016 election and all this opinions that are going around, it's totally like separated friendships.

CARROLL: Liam Murphy, Connor Levenson, and Mariana Segura are all 18- year-olds.

CARROLL (on camera): What's it going to take to get you in there to vote? MARIANA SEGUARA, FIRST-TIME VOTER: Well, what's going to get me in there to vote is especially immigration because there's a lot of families being separated.

MURPHY: Like she said, I mean, definitely, immigration is really important. Also, I think gun control is a big issue that's being talked about a lot recently in the news -- Parkland.

CARROLL: And when you say gun control what specifically would you like to see done or not done?

MURPHY: Well, there's a lot of talk about getting rid of some of the rights that we have to own guns and I think it's really important for our future that we still have the right to own guns and so that we could defend our self.

CARROLL (voice-over): For these voters, it's not just about policy. They're also frustrated with the current political system.

CONNOR LEVENSON, FIRST-TIME VOTER: To me, it's not as much of a political issue but more of like a societal issue, which would be definitely the deep polarization that I see. And that's really what got me -- what I want to see from some parents is people who are willing to -- it doesn't matter if it's gun control or immigration, people who are willing to work across the aisle, work -- whether you're a liberal and work with some conservatives -- or conservatives work with some liberals.

CARROLL: One this is clear, reaching these voters won't be easy.

CARROLL (on camera): Is there anyone out there on the national landscape that appeals to you in terms of politicians? Anyone out there?

Jason Carroll, CNN, Santa Clarita, California.



CUOMO: President Trump demanding the Justice Department review the Russia probe surveillance tactics.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: This claim that there is a political spy embedded in the Trump campaign is nonsense.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I believe if there was an embedded person, that person cleared us.