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U.S. and China Agree on Outline of Deal to Save ZTE; DOJ and FBI to Allow Lawmakers to See Highly Classified Information; Explosive Eruption Overnight Prompts Evacuations in Hawaii; Voting underway in Primary Elections for Key States. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 22, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- components and software to this smartphone company ZTE. It's something that the Chinese company said would put it out of business.

Now this ban was punishment for violating U.S. sanctions. So in return China may remove over a billion dollars in tariffs on U.S. farm products but the thing is beyond the trade benefits there are these national security concerns about ZTE itself. You know, the Pentagon even banned sales of ZTE phones being sold on military bases because of these worries that China could use its equipment, that ZTE could use its equipment to, you know, spy on the U.S. ZTE sells smartphones and other equipment all over the world, including the U.S., and the concern is is that equipment could be hacked.

So this morning, we see Senator Marco Rubio tweeting this, he's been very critical, by the way, of ZTE. He's slamming Trump for surrendering to China, saying this, "Can't emphasize enough what a crisis this is. China is buying and often stealing the next generation software that powers our military and is at the core of our economy. We need to wake up before it's too late. John Cornyn has a new law we should act on as soon as possible."

So Right now the U.S. and China, they're working out all of these specific of a trade deal. One thing the U.S. has not gotten, protections for intellectual property. Now there is one significant concession that the U.S. did get, China is cutting tariffs it charges on imported cars from 25 percent to 15 percent. This is going to start July 1st. Trump as you remember had called out China's imports duties in a tweet. Calling it stupid trade going on for years.

Now more broadly China is crucial for a number of auto companies. It's the world's biggest car markets. American companies like GM and Ford, they make their cars in China as well so this is going to wind up having a bigger impact on car companies that aren't there yet for them to go in and sell their cars at a lower tariff. But it could wind up leveling the playing field when it comes to competition.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's a really big deal. Let's not forget, ZTE violated this agreement.

KOSIK: Exactly.

HARLOW: To not do business with Iran and North Korea. KOSIK: Right.

HARLOW: It's also a big part of this.


HARLOW: Markets --

KOSIK: They could get a pass.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Markets are open. What are they doing?

KOSIK: They're looking like they're up in the green. More jolly good news about trade.

BERMAN: Well, they don't want to trade war. The markets don't want a trade war.

KOSIK: Obviously.

BERMAN: If the United States is backing out of tariffs and not being as hard on China as Trump had promised, the markets sort of like that.

KOSIK: With each new concession, we see the markets go higher and higher.

HARLOW: Alison, thanks for the reporting.

KOSIK: You got it.

BERMAN: All right. Also, the White House doing battle with the Justice Department, congressional leaders will be brought in for this meeting very soon.

Joining us to discuss this now, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst, and Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst.

Jackie, who won in this, you know, temporary face-off between the Department of Justice and the White House and congressional Republicans here? Congressional leaders will be brought in for some closed door meeting where they're shown evidence of the investigation. Is that a win?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it depends on what they're shown. We don't know what -- it seems like Rod Rosenstein was trying to split the baby in this case. He was trying to give the president what he wanted and keep some of this information classified but we don't know what exactly Congress is being shown and there is a real fear that this will leak immediately because this is not Mike Rogers's independence -- intelligence committee any more.

This is an intelligence committee that has become increasingly political as the year has gone on. So whether or not those fears will be realized, we'll just have to see. We don't know what's in there yet. HARLOW: Ron, the White House is -- the president, I should say, to be

clear the president's re-election committee campaign is using this very politically to say the least. I got in my inbox, a lot of folks got in their inbox, an e-mail yesterday that read something like this, FBI-DOJ infiltrated, surveilled our campaign for political purposes. Worse than Watergate. That's the e-mail subject headline. Worse than Watergate.

It's not a fundraising email but it's a list building one. Clearly you call this a successful political strategy, at least for the president.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, I think in the big picture in some ways this is like the horrible spate of school shootings we are living through in that we are being numbed to events that were previously unimaginable. I mean, the red line that has been crossed in this episode by the president directing the Department of Justice to open an investigation that is designed to undercut an ongoing investigation into his own campaign in 2016 is such -- we are so far from previous practice that it's easy to lose sight and the response of congressional Republicans rather than raising alarms to this is to abet it and to kind of be -- try to open another front, a third front of kind of a conflict and counter attack against this investigation.

All of that is extraordinary, and what I think it really says is that Republicans in Congress are locking arms around President Trump, have decided that a united front is their best chance of holding on to power in November and what you see in the polling is that much of the Republican -- traditional Republican electoral coalition is also going along with this.

[09:35:15] Declining confidence in the Mueller investigation in that coalition and what that means really is that Democrats are going to have to work harder than they might have expected six months ago and are going to have to match the intensity that President Trump is building in his coalition with these kinds of maneuvers and also a whole series of policies aimed purely at the Republican base.

HARLOW: Which is your new column this morning on Plug for you there, Ron Brownstein.

BERMAN: So moments ago on Capitol Hill, guys, the secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, was briefing House members on election security. We caught up with her after and she was asked if the president calling, you know, the investigation a witch hunt day in and day out has hurt the cause for election security. Listen to what she says.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think the president calling the -- everything involving Russia a witch hunt and talking about no collusion, no interference, that kind of thing dampens the message you're trying to send that this is a big problem and that Congress and the states do need to take this very seriously? KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I don't. I think the

president has been very clear that he agrees with the intel community that the Russians did attempt to hack or otherwise through cyber means influence our election and he remains committed. That's why we're here today to make sure that his administration is doing everything we can to address that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Secretary, to that point, do you have any reason --


BERMAN: Jackie Kucinich, the president has made clear, the president remains committed. Two statements from the secretary of Homeland Security that I'm not sure it's quite as clear as she says it is.

KUCINICH: It isn't. He has not made that clear. It's usually when it impacts him, though, is when we hear collusion and he has done -- I mean, Poppy made reference to this. He has done everything in his power to make this political, to make this about Robert Mueller leading an investigation that is out to get this president. That is not the case, but that's what they've tried to frame this as and to try to diminish whatever does come out from this investigation.

That said, Ron made reference to the diminishing confidence in Mueller, when you talk to a lot of Republicans on the Hill, maybe not some of the Freedom Caucus members, but some just say they want Mueller just to be let alone and do his job. Someone like a Paul Ryan because as the president tries to intervene and tries to get into this investigation as he is, he just keeps on getting more wrapped up in it and giving them -- opening more doors to looking into why he's not just letting this run its course.

BERMAN: I will say Paul Ryan has given the green light for Devin Nunes to do whatever he wants.



BROWNSTEIN: Right. And you know -- I was going to say real quick.


BROWNSTEIN: I mean, what the president does effectively is basically try to argue that any criticism of him or any investigation of him is really an attempt to silence his supporters, and I think that argument as I kind of suggested is working with a big portion of the Republican coalition and what that really means for November, I think, and certainly for 2020 is that those who reject that idea, who believe that there are -- that there need to be independent standards of kind of the administration of justice that everyone is held to are going to have to fight for it because the idea that the Republican -- the traditional Republican coalition is going to abandon the Republicans in the midterm elections simply because they are uneasy about Trump, I think the evidence of that is diminishing. And really if Democrats are going to take power they're going to have

to turn out in better numbers among their core voters than they usually see in midterm elections. The paradox is that in embracing such an unusual president Republicans in many ways are producing a more conventional midterm kind of environment than seemed possible only a few months ago and that I think creates -- it still leaves a big opportunity for Democrats because Republicans are aligning themselves with behavior that many Americans find uncomfortable but they're going to have to fight for it.

BERMAN: All right. Interesting, guys. Ron Brownstein, Jackie Kucinich, thanks so much.

Tomorrow, the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has got a key interest in everything Ron was just saying. She will answer your questions live in a CNN town hall hosted by Chris Cuomo tomorrow night 9:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

HARLOW: Flowing lava, toxic gas, no end in sight. Now more people in Hawaii learn they may have to evacuate at a moment's notice.


[09:43:39] HARLOW: More evacuations in Hawaii this morning after the Kilauea volcano erupted in a violent explosion overnight. Another one. Look at those images. Authorities are telling people on the island at this point to be prepared to leave with little to no advanced notice.

BERMAN: Yes, it's probably a good idea. There are rivers of lava right now flowing into the ocean. This lava has reached a power plant forcing workers to shut down the facility because they're worried it could release more toxic gas into the air.

Our Scott McLean is there on the scene. We can see the lava flowing behind you, Scott. What's the latest?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John and Poppy. Well, obviously authorities here they are trying to mitigate any potential danger at that geothermal power plant which is not far from where we're standing. So far they have been able to seal up or pour cold water into 10 out of 11 wells. But they're having trouble with the last one. Obviously because of the pure volume of the lava, that is obviously a real and present danger if that were to reach those wells.

There's obviously concern about the potential for some sort of chemical explosion. Now you can see the lava, it is going every direction and it is cascading down these lava flows. You can see the glow of it off of the clouds there and it is eventually reaching the ocean creating another hazard.

[09:45:01] That's laze. This lava haze that is a dangerous gas that authorities want people to stay away from.

Here's one other thing that we're keeping an eye on, John and Poppy, and that is another fissure that has really been exploding for more than a week now and over the weekend, despite all of the advice from authorities, we met a man who was protecting two homes about 100 yards away from this violently exploding fissure that was sending lava bombs into the air. He was spraying down the lava when it hit the house and he also had a strategy to keep himself safe. Listen.


DARRYL CLINTON, RESIDENT: Look up and watch them. Keep your eye on them. It's almost like catching a football, but you don't want to catch this football.


MCLEAN: And so Darryl Clinton just a day after we did that interview, he actually got hit with a lava bomb on his leg. That bomb was about the size of a bowling ball. He was just standing on his porch. He stopped paying attention for just half a second.

Now luckily his ex-wife was there to take him to the hospital. She said that the heat of that lava bomb was so intense, John and Poppy, that it actually seemed to cauterize the wound on his leg. It also started a fire on the porch. One other thing, Darryl Clinton, he's in the hospital. He'll be there for six weeks. But those two homes he was protecting, they are still standing.

HARLOW: Unbelievable. I keep wondering, can you feel the heat behind you where you're standing right now, Scott?

MCLEAN: Not from our vantage point, Poppy, but a few days ago when we were up closer, it was like putting your face up next to a camp fire.


MCLEAN: The heat was so, so intense. But we're about -- despite what it may look like on your end, we're about half a mile away here.

HARLOW: OK. All right. Scott, thank you for the reporting.

BERMAN: I still think it's a special kind of cool to stand in front of a volcanic eruption.


BERMAN: And do a live shot.

HARLOW: Yes, it is.

BERMAN: So our hats off to Scott McLean. Hope he stays as careful.

HARLOW: Thanks, Scott.

All right. So we are now hearing from the father of the alleged Santa Fe High School shooter. He did an interview with the "Wall Street Journal." Here's part of what he said, quote, "I hope God helps me and my family understand. We are all devastated. It would have been better if he shot me than all those kids." CNN has reached out to him. We have not heard back.

Tomorrow teachers and staff from Santa Fe High School will return to the school. Students come back next week and we now have the pictures, the photographs of all eight students and two teachers who were murdered on Friday. They and their families of course in our hearts. Friday's school shooting marked the 22nd school shooting in this country already this year.


[09:52:13] HARLOW: Primary Tuesday, voters in a number of states heading to the polls.

BERMAN: Yes. Very closely watched races in Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas. What does it all tell us about November?

Let's bring in Harry Enten, CNN Politics senior writer and analyst, and by the way, if you're not following him on Twitter, you are not doing it right.

Harry, I think today is largely about battles within the Democratic Party. We're going to see where the party splits. And Texas is a great example of that.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICAL SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Right. I think Texas 7, this is a district that Donald Trump lost after Mitt Romney heavily won. A very contested Democratic primary there between Laura Moser, who's a very progressive candidate against Lizzie Fletcher and the DCCC really, really does not want Moser to win that primary.

HARLOW: What about Kentucky?

ENTEN: Kentucky there you have Amy McGrath, who is this fighter pilot who is basically -- looks like she has a lot of momentum going into that race. She's backed by more progressive wing of the party, the DCCC sort of brought on in the last minute Jim Gray, who's the mayor of Lexington there. But it looks like McGrath has a lot of momentum.

BERMAN: And of course she represents something we've seen up until this point, too, which is that women are doing very, very well in Democratic special elections.

HARLOW: Right.

ENTEN: Correct. You have a record number of women who are running on the Democratic side, over 300 running for Congress according to the latest stats. So, you know, if she were able to win, a lot of momentum especially against Trump among Democratic women.

HARLOW: Right. Continuing this story of the year, the women not just running but winning in these races.

ENTEN: But winning.

HARLOW: What about Georgia? ENTEN: Georgia governor, great race there, Stacey Abrams trying to

become the first African-American woman governor in the country. It looks like she is going to win the Democratic primary there. But it's still unsure --

HARLOW: Tough fight ahead, though.

ENTEN: Definitely a tough fight ahead. Georgia has not had a Democratic governor elected since 1998.

BERMAN: So the Democratic nominee will be a woman named Stacey, though. You can go to bed early knowing that.

ENTEN: That's correct. If you're perfectly satisfied just knowing the first name of a candidate, you can go to bed early in Georgia.

BERMAN: All right, Harry, just give me a sense. If you had to look forward now until November, you know, what are the signs? What do things look like for the Democrats? Are they gaining momentum or they're losing momentum in their efforts to take the House?

ENTEN: I think if there is any momentum that's going, they're losing it. You see that the Republicans are gaining some ground on the generic congressional ballot. You do see some signs that there is some splits on the Democratic Party. We saw that obviously in Nebraska, too, last week. So I would say they're losing, but Democrats are still favored to take back the House at this time.

HARLOW: Ron Brownstein has a column on it this morning on, talking about how much harder the fight has gotten just in the last few months for Democrats.

ENTEN: Yes. I would say the fight has gotten harder. I mean, you were looking at double-digit advantages for the Democrats in the generic congressional ballot.


ENTEN: And now it's closer to around five or six points.

HARLOW: And you attribute that to?

ENTEN: I think you attribute it to Donald Trump gaining some popularity. The two figures are definitely linked.

BERMAN: Harry, great to have you here with us. Thanks very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, moments from now, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will take questions. You'll see that here live.

[09:55:01] This comes just after McCarthy denied reports that he's been in talks about trying to take over the speaker role early before Paul Ryan steps down. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow. A stunning meeting at the White House followed by a surprising agreement to say the least. An agreement that will let the FBI, the Justice Department, share highly classified information from the Russia probe with leaders in Congress. Information until at least yesterday those agencies did not want to part with.

BERMAN: Yes. The White House says that the sharing will take place immediately, but what does that mean and what type of information will be shared, and with whom will Democrats be in the room? All of this may become at least a little more clear when the speaker of the House steps in front of cameras just moments from now on Capitol Hill.

Speaker Ryan has been a key player --