Return to Transcripts main page


Justice Department to Share Classified Info on Russian Investigation with Congress; North Korea Dismantles Test Site in Front of Reporters. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 22, 2018 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Justice Department agreeing to meet with lawmakers to review information related to the Russia probe.

[05:59:27] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's wrong for confidential information about an ongoing criminal investigation to be shared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's insincere, I believe, to say "We can't share that," when I think the primary reason is because it embarrasses them.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The president is trying to interfere with an investigation that happens to be an investigation of him.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll find out what happened. The American people and all of us will have the facts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are not the actions of an innocent person. This shows consciousness of guilt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a bit of a nightmare, and it has been for the past couple of weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It shows me the power of God, the power of our earth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cracking is far from being over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready to pretty much leave there in ten minutes and say good-bye to everything.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, May 22, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.

Top FBI, Justice Department and intelligence officials agree to share highly-classified information with lawmakers related to the Russia investigation. This comes after a meeting with President Trump, who has demanded details about a confidential FBI source that he claims, without offering any evidence, may have spied on the Trump campaign for political purposes.

The White House says chief of staff John Kelly will immediately set up a meeting for congressional leaders to review these highly-classified pieces of information about the Russia investigation.

Now, of course, you'll remember the Justice Department had been reluctant to turn over classified info before the investigation is over, so what exactly will they be showing them?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. There's international news this morning, as well. President Trump meets with South Korean President Moon at the White House today. Remember, just three weeks before the planned U.S./North Korea summit.

White House aides are supposedly growing a little bit skeptical about the meeting. The question is whether or not the summit is in trouble.

And a stunning revelation from the Vatican. Pope Francis telling a gay man who was a victim of a sexual predator in Chile, that -- here's the quote -- "God made him like that and his sexuality doesn't matter." We have never heard anything like that from a pope before. We're going to talk to that man live on NEW DAY.

There's a lot to cover. Let's start with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, live at the White House with our top story -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, the conflict here at the White House seems to have diffused, at least temporarily. Twenty-four hours ago, we were bracing for a showdown between President Trump and the Justice Department after he raised the stakes by personally demanding that they do his bidding.

Now, after a meeting here at the White House yesterday, things seem to have cooled a little bit, and they've reached an agreement, but now the question is, who got the upper hand after that meeting?


COLLINS (voice-over): The White House brokering an agreement, announcing that top FBI and Justice Department officials have agreed to meet with congressional leaders to review highly-classified information about the handling of the Russia probe.

The detente coming after President Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, on Monday. The development coming one day after President Trump demanded an investigation into alleged infiltration or surveillance of his campaign, though the White House says this meeting was set up in advance.

The Justice Department later asking its inspector general to investigate the president's concerns.

PENCE: We're very confident that, as the inspector general has been doing their work, looking at the conduct of the FBI during that period, that by adding their focus to this, that we'll get to the bottom of it, because the American people have a right to know.

COLLINS: Press secretary Sarah Sanders noting that chief of staff John Kelly will immediately set up the meeting with congressional leaders, though it remains unclear who will be invited and what information will be shared.

The Justice Department has resisted turning over classified material subpoenaed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes about the early steps of the Russia investigation and a confidential source who spoke with at least three Trump campaign officials in 2016.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The day that we can't protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe.

COLLINS: The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee telling reporters he's concerned the DOJ may have capitulated and expressing concerned about the White House's involvement in that meeting.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This cannot be a conduit to supply investigatory materials to the Trump legal defense team. That would be a terrible abuse of power.

COLLINS: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stressing that if the meeting does occur, quote, "It must be bipartisan in order to serve as a check on the disturbing tendency of the president's allies to distort facts and undermine the investigation and the people conducting it."

Close Trump ally Republican Mark Meadows calling the inspector general review a step in the right direction, but warning that the Justice Department's "attempt to circumvent this responsibility won't go unnoticed."

Nunes hasn't commented about the proposed meeting, but he said on Sunday that he won't meet with the Justice Department until he gets information about the confidential source.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We're not going to go to another meeting where we don't get documents.

COLLINS: President Trump praising Nunes at the CIA Monday.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A very courageous man, he's courageous, Congressman Devin Nunes. Thank you very much, Devin, for being here. Appreciate it.


COLLINS: Now, there is a lot to unpack there, but overall, what is important to keep in mind is this political fight over the Russia investigation, and now the president seems to be taking this approach that he wants the investigators to be investigated. [06:05:11] Now the White House is putting so much emphasis on this, as

they have a much bigger problem to deal with today in North Korea. President Trump is scheduled to meet with the South Korean president over a real concern inside this White House that the potential for that historic summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore is dwindling -- Alisyn and Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan. Thank you very much for that.

Joining us now are CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

Carrie, I need your help understanding the president's position with why he is so exercised about the idea that the FBI would use a confidential informant to investigate a crime. That's what they do. I mean, that's what they do every day.

If they get a tip that a crime is being committed, they try to talk to people connected to it, like, say George Papadopoulos or maybe Sam Clovis and see what they can learn, using an informant. I don't -- where is the smoking gun here?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a really good question, Alisyn. The use of informants in cases -- and remember, back in the fall of 2016 I think this was primarily a counterintelligence investigation at the time. It was an investigation to determine to what extent the Russian government or Russian surrogates were trying to influence the U.S. election.

So the use of an informant is a standard investigative technique. It's not particularly unusual. It doesn't require court approval. It doesn't have those high legal standards that some other types of intrusive, investigative techniques like electronic surveillance might include. And so it's pretty standard.

What is unusual is revealing the actual identity of sources, publicly for sure, and even to congressional intelligence oversight personnel.

CUOMO: There's a 1966 Supreme Court case, right, that goes into this that you don't need a warrant, because using a confidential source isn't considered a search or a seizure. So the legal basis is there.

But this really isn't about the law. This is about politics and the perception, John, that you are spying on their campaign.


CUOMO: You weren't doing this to Hillary Clinton, despite all the smoke around her and what was going on, but you were doing it to Trump. And you didn't tell anybody. You weren't out in the open about it. That's sneaky.

And it feeds a narrative that Donald Trump wants the American people to believe, which is that they're out to get you in the deep state of government, and I'm going to fight them.

AVLON: It feeds into a persecution complex the president has had and an argument he's made overall --

CUOMO: That he's the victim.

AVLON: -- that he's the victim and that the Obama administration was unfairly trying to surveil his campaign.

I think a couple things to unpack here. First of all, this president's strategy is investigate the investigators. That is the official strategy of the White House now in all but name. What he's trying to do is ratchet up that anxiety, that sense of persecution to deflect from what seems to be the larger investigation that is really, I think, troubling for him.

You look at the history of presidents who have attacked prosecutors, particularly Nixon, Clinton, it's because they've had something to hide. Other presidents have had investigations and special counsels. There hasn't been this obsessive adversarial relationship. So it's usually not a good fact pattern.

And the -- you know, both -- one of the surreal things about the 2016 election in retrospect is that both campaigns were being investigated by the FBI. We only knew about one of them.

CAMEROTA: Here is what "The New York Times" editorial board writes. "Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress compound their shame daily, either by standing by in silence or by working actively with the White House and conservative media to help expose the identity of an FBI informant."

Was it just a year ago these same people professed outrage at the supposed unmasking of American citizens caught up in duly authorized surveillance?

And so Carrie, what -- where are we with what the congressional investigators on, say, the House Intel Committee, like Devin Nunes, are going to be able to get out of the DOJ and the FBI?

CORDERO: Well, and that's the real difficult thing for the public to discern is what the House Intelligence Committee is doing. Are they exercising their lawful and appropriate oversight under the National Security Act? Or are they doing political favors or potentially legal defense favors for the president? And so it's difficult to decide.

I really put this latest, quote unquote, scandal because I think it's a contrived scandal with respect to the source, in the same category as the unmasking situation, which again, was something that was handled appropriately but that the House Intelligence Committee tried to make into a political scandal with going back to March of 2017 when the president tweeted that former President Obama had, quote, "wiretapped him."

The effect that that had, that particular tweet, is it energized congressional investigators to ramp up their investigation. It also energized reporters to start digging to find out whether or not it was true. [06:10:12] The result is that more information about the investigation

became public prematurely, and what that did is then that put the subjects of the investigation on notice of what was going on behind the scenes. It has the potential to disrupt the investigation. I think that's what's going on here.

AVLON: Yes. And look, there's a reason why, in today's "New York Times," you've got a professor at NYU Law saying prosecutorial independence is under assault by this action.

Unfortunately, you know, if past is prologue, this is not a particularly tough call about what's going to come out of the House Intel Committee receiving this information.

There is a world of difference that we have seen over the past year between the Senate Intel Committee, bipartisan, fairly controlled, and the House Intel Committee where, unfortunately, its chairman, Devin Nunes, has been back-channeling information to the White House, had to recuse himself at one point from the investigation because of it. So there's unfortunately very low expectations that this will be handled in a nonpartisan manner.

CUOMO: Right. Look, I mean, Carrie's analysis is very subtle and good. But I wouldn't spend too many calories going into a deeply- thought-out motivation by at least the president and the White House. They're like the honey badger on this stuff.

AVLON: He's got a (ph) honey badger reference.

CUOMO: They go after opponents. They don't care if it's the FBI. They don't care if it's the integrity of the investigation.

CAMEROTA: Right, but sometimes I like logic to be at least play --

CUOMO: The logic is clear. The logic is clear. Attack the people who are attacking you, even if it's just in perception. Bring down their credibility.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I get it. But I think --

CUOMO: That will reduce the impact of anything they find.

CAMEROTA: It's like being upset with the surgeon, because he actually, like, cut you open during an operation. That's what they do.

CUOMO: Right. Why --

CAMEROTA: I don't understand attacking the FBI.

CUOMO: -- did they decide to operate on him?

Now, here's the best evidence against him. Just like it was with Giuliani, which is the idea that, you know, you can't subpoena a president. It's not what he used to think when he wasn't working for Trump. Sam Clovis, one of the people on the inside of the Trump administration. Now you hear Trump and his allies saying this was so spying. It was so spying. Listen to Sam Clovis.


SAM CLOVIS, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: The meeting was very high- level. It was like two faculty members sitting down in the faculty lounge, talking about research. And there was no indication or no inclination that this was anything other than -- than just wanting to offer up his help to the campaign if I needed it.

It was not anything other than him talking about the research that he had done on China. And that was essentially what the discussion was about. And we already had a lot of China people involved.


CUOMO: This is Sam Clovis, the former campaign official, describing the meeting with the confidential source. OK?

So, John Avlon, this is very hurtful to the narrative that Trump wants to put out. And by the way, it's also an insight into why they shut Clovis down.

CAMEROTA: Clovis goes off-message.

CUOMO: He used to come on the show, and he was --

AVLON: He goes rogue, Professor Clovis.

CUOMO: -- always too honest, and eventually they pulled him off and he wasn't out there as a mouthpiece anymore.

AVLON: That's why we love --

CUOMO: But when you hear that description of the meeting --


CUOMO: -- where's the spying? Where's the nefarious? Where's the pernicious? Where's the evil at play?

AVLON: That was -- that was two academics sitting down by the fire wearing tweed coats, according to Mr. Clovis.

No, look, you -- it's tough to stick to the script when it's totally opportunistic, you know. And the problem with the arguments being advanced and the different plays and arguments that have been used by the campaign and the crew is that it's all situational ethics. They're angry about one thing one day when it's in their favor, and they'll flip the script the next day and hope nobody notices. That's one of the ways you know that this isn't a sturdy ship based on a foundation of facts, unfortunately.

CUOMO: But they do have something going for them, which is there is a paranoia in this country --

AVLON: Sure.

CUOMO: -- about how the government does its business, how investigations are run, Big Brother. I mean, they're checking boxes of things that a group of this country for years --

CAMEROTA: It's incumbent upon us to explain that, guess what, the FBI investigates crimes when they find out --

CUOMO: Right, but how?

CAMEROTA: -- from the Australian diplomats that George Papadopoulos is running his mouth about a Russian giving him dirt on Hillary Clinton. Guess what? They opened an investigation into that. I mean, this is -- that was the trigger for it, as we know. And so they tried to find out more information. Like, I just want logic occasionally.

AVLON: To pierce through the veil. Yes, that's a fair expectation.

CUOMO: How they investigate. That's going to be -- the meaningful part of this, Carrie, is going to be show us the information now, which is a problem, because Rosenstein has agreed to put out information.


CUOMO: Now you hear Schumer saying it's got to be bipartisan. We know there's zero chance that Democrats and Republicans walk into that room, get the same information and come out with the same take. So I don't know what's going to happen.

But this is going to be feeding on the idea of how did they do it? How did they go after Trump versus how they went after Clinton? That's where this is all heading up, don't you think?

[06:15:00] CORDERO: Well, intelligence oversight usually is a little bit different than other -- usually, different than other types of oversight that is done by Congress. Usually, it is bipartisan in the past. Usually, they do work together in a less partisan way than in other types of oversight, because usually, the membership and the chair of the committee understand that they're dealing with national security information, and that requires them to put their politics aside, to some degree.

The Intelligence Committees do have authority to receive information. What's unusual is they usually don't receive information about who the subjects of specific investigations are. They usually don't receive information about the identity of sources. And so what's happened here is people in the intelligence and the law enforcement community are used to reporters or the media trying to dig behind investigations, unearth facts that they don't want to be public, but it's different when it's coming from the Intel Committee and the White House.

AVLON: It is. And look, Carrie is making one important point. We can do the "X's" and "O's" of the different strategies of folks on different sides, but we also need to hold a standard that people have a right to expect that prosecutorial independence will be respected. That some things in the national security and intel community, partisanship should end at the water's edge and that politicians should at least sometimes try to hold themselves to a higher standard. That's not happening. That's our job to call out, as well as to do the intrigue on either side.

CAMEROTA: John Avlon, Carrie Cordero, thank you very much.

Now to an unprecedented moment as foreign journalists are invited inside North Korea to witness the dismantling of its nuclear test site. CNN is live inside this reclusive country. Ahead, we'll show you, next.


[06:20:29] CAMEROTA: President Trump will host South Korea's president at the White House today as his concerns reportedly grow over his meeting next month with Kim Jong-un.

Meanwhile, international journalists have been invited inside North Korea to witness what they say is the dismantling of their nuclear test site. CNN's Will Ripley is one of those journalists live inside North Korea. He is heading to that site.


We are part of a very small group of national journalists who have traveled here maybe a dozen and a half or so I counted on our flight from Beijing. Here to Wonsan. It was a charter flight, lots of empty seats on the plane.

You might be able to tell it's raining behind me, and the weather is an important factor here, because initially, we had thought we might be getting on a train tonight, an overnight train, about 11 hours into the mountains of North Korea, then another four hours by bus and then another hour hike after that to get to the Punggye-ri nuclear test site just to give you an idea of how remote this area really is.

You actually have to walk after going on the train and after driving. It's a place that no foreign press have ever visited before. And we are going there, the North Koreans say, to witness the destruction of the nuclear test site. The implosion of tunnels, the dismantling of buildings that are on site.

Some people say that all of that could easily be rebuilt. But the North Koreans say they are being transparent here, that this is a good faith step towards denuclearization. That's why they brought us, the press here, to show you.

There are no experts that we're aware of, international experts who will be joining us, so we will be sort of untrained eyes focusing our cameras and then the experts from afar are going to have to figure out exactly what they believe is happening here inside North Korea.

There is a lot of tension here, despite the fact that there is this summit scheduled for June 12 between the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and President Trump.

The comments just last night from the U.S. vice president, Mike Pence, also comments from -- from John Bolton, talking about this Libya model for North Korea. That is infuriating to North Koreans -- North Korean officials here who have said publicly they will not accept any sort of Libya model, given the fact that Gadhafi, after surrendering his nuclear weapons, was dead within a few years, toppled by U.S.-backed forces in his country.

And so there are some questions about whether or not the summit will actually go forward if that kind of rhetoric continues out of Washington. The North Koreans also very unhappy because the U.S. and South Korea are engaging in joint military drills not too far from where I'm standing here in North Korea. The North Koreans say that's not in the spirit of peace.

They U.S. would argue that the drills are defensive in nature, and they told the North Koreans they would be happening. They knew it was going to happen, and yet now they seem to be upset about it.

So we're here to witness this first step towards denuclearization from the North Korean perspective, or at least what they want to show us, and we'll take you along every step of the way. We may -- we may lose cell-phone contact for up to two days, because we're going to be in an area completely cut off. But when we get back, it should be some really extraordinary pictures and -- and experiences to tell you about in the North Korean mountains, Chris.

CUOMO: Will, an extraordinary opportunity. We have the right man there, of course. There's always skepticism about what somebody wants to show you, but let's take it one fact at a time.

Thanks for being with us this morning. Stay safe, as always.

All right. So we're going to keep digging into whether the summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un will happen. There are a lot of variables. We'll take you through them and tell you what to watch, next.


[06:28:11] CUOMO: Big day today. Big day. South Korea's president is going to meet with President Trump at the White House ahead of this planned U.S./North Korea summit next month.

CNN has learned administration aides are growing, you know, a little sideways, a little skeptical about whether or not this is actually going to happen, this big summit. Let's bring in CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger.

First, are we right in the notion that there is some concern about whether this will happen?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, yes, Chris. As I reported in "The Times" yesterday morning, the president himself has been somewhat concerned about the degree to which the North Koreans appear to be backing away or redefining, or defining for the first time, their concepts of disarmament.

And it's a little more complicated than he had initially imagined. It's pretty consistent with what all of the past negotiations have revealed about North Korean concepts here.

They're not just thinking about getting rid of their own weapons. They keep talking about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

And when they say that, Chris, what they mean is that the American nuclear umbrella over South Korea disappears as their own nuclear forces come down. They're much more interested in an arm's control scene in which we recognize them in a nuclear power, which the United States has never done, than they are actual, complete elimination. And that's the very careful line that President Moon of South Korea is going to have to walk with President Trump today.

CAMEROTA: So look, I mean, David, I remember, we've talked about this for weeks when we first heard the announcement that President Trump had agreed, you know, sort of spontaneously to have this meeting. And I think that you were one of the people who kept saying the devil is in the details, everybody. You know? Like let's slow it down and pump the brakes.

SANGER: I wasn't ready to give the Nobel Prize over yet.

CAMEROTA: As I recall, you were hesitant in that.

But what was the moment for President Trump, from your reporting, where he -- it started to shift for him, and he started to go from being really optimistic to now quite concerned?