Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Calls for Investigation into FBI Probe into Trump Campaign; White House: DOJ & FBI Will Allow Lawmakers to See "Highly Classified" Info. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 22, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's insincere I believe to say we can't share when I think the primary reason is because it embarrasses them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is obviously trying to interfere with an investigation. It happens to be an investigation of him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll find out what happened and 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 weeks.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cracking continues but this is far from being over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're ready to pretty much leave there in 10 minutes and say good-bye to everything.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your "new day." it is Tuesday, may 22nd, 8:00 in the east.

The Justice Department and FBI agreed to share highly classified information related to the Russia investigation with lawmakers. This comes after a meeting with President Trump who demanded details about a confidential FBI source that the president claims, without any evidence, may have spied on the Trump campaign for political purposes. White House chief-of-staff John Kelly will set up a meeting for congressional leaders to review the classified materials. So what will the Justice Department be showing them? We're not sure.

CUOMO: Also, it is a big day for the president concerning the North Korea summit. He's going to host the South Korean president, Moon, to discuss details of the ongoing negotiations with Kim Jong-un. We are now three weeks before this summit was supposed to happen in Singapore. I'm saying was because there's uncertainty now. We'll give you more on that just ahead.

CAMEROTA: Joining us now, CNN political analyst Josh Green and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, there's obviously a lot of stuff in the weeds, so let's look at the big picture. The FBI every day uses confidential sources to try to fight crime, every day. That's their M.O. That's what they do. How is it that the Trump administration has tried to make it sound as though this would be spying for political purposes? Is there any evidence of that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: No, there is absolutely no evidence of that, but there is evidence that the FBI used a confidential informant in the investigation of the Trump campaign during 2016. What makes this such a perverse situation is that the president is not just interfering in any old investigation, which he shouldn't do in the first place, which is a violation of norms that have been honored for decades, but he is interfering in an investigation of him. He's a subject of this investigation.

So the idea that he is doing this is really outrageous, and you can see the FBI and the Justice Department trying to accommodate him but in a way that somehow preserves the investigation. It's unclear to me how that -- whether they'll be able to thread that needle.

CUOMO: So let's talk about the politics here, because this is the argument. The argument is, does the FBI do this? Yes, but they don't do it in this context, they don't do it in presidential campaigns, they don't do it without coming and talking to you. That's what the president is pushing here, that this is the deep state, the government that his base doesn't trust.

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is part of the narrative that Trump and his defenders in conservative media and in the House Republican caucus in particular have been pushing all along in an effort to discredit the investigation into Trump and whether or not he conspired with Russia. It's as simple as that.

I don't think there are a lot of people out there that think that Trump's demand and his claim to think that there was a spy is being made in good faith. What it's doing is trying to undermine an ongoing Justice Department investigation which simply does not happen or should not happen and for the most part hasn't since Watergate.

CAMEROTA: But Jeffrey, it is triggering this response, which is that yesterday there was a meeting and now the FBI and the DOJ reportedly have said that they will release some classified documents to Devin Nunes and maybe others in the House Intel Committee. But we don't know exactly what they'll release, but, of course, the fear is that confidential informants identities will be unmasked and then, even worse, leaked.

TOOBIN: And I think, again, to focus on the political side of this, I think it's very likely that the House Republicans, Devin Nunes and company, will say whatever is released was either unacceptably small, there wasn't enough released, or led to even more profound questions about the fairness of the investigation to keep this controversy going, because what you have is manufacturing a partisan divide over the Mueller investigation that both the president and his allies want to keep stoking.

So this is not about getting a resolution over this -- over this particular debate. It's about keeping the fight going and perhaps, ultimately, forcing Rod Rosenstein either to be fired or resign in protest.

[08:05:08] CUOMO: So the problem with the narrative is twofold. One, they have a process problem. You're supposed to let the inspector general do this. We have a mechanism in place. You're not supposed to interfere with these. And, by the way, they have an I.G. over there, Horowitz, who was an Obama appointee who just hammered McCabe. So he's not shy about getting into this.

The factual problem is I am suspicious if whether or not the alacrity, quickness with which the FBI has said they'll show him information is now because what they're going to see is that here's how we did it, which was very by the book, and look at the stuff our guy was told, look at the proof that they were open for business, look at the suspicious activity, because we know already that the FBI was hearing this, that these guys were open for business and taking meetings they shouldn't have taken. Then what happens?

GREEN: If you look at Rosenstein's statement, he very quickly said we're going to shunt this to the DOJ inspector and if there is any wrongdoing -- I think it's important he had that phrase in there because what's been described by the mainstream press is pretty much standard operating procedure for how an informant would go in and try and look into whether or not there was wrongdoing. There's nothing wrong with that. Should we look at the language that Rosenstein used. He's found an outlet valve at least in the short-term --

CUOMO: Now he's meeting with these politicians.

GREEN: He is, but look, when Trump made this demand of his Justice Department, unprecedented demand, he presented Rosenstein with a dilemma. Do you resign on principal because the president is trying to interfere I an active investigation, or to you try to accommodate that in order to protect Mueller's investigation? It seems pretty clear that Rosenstein has chosen the latter path, and so here we are with DOJ and I think some people around Trump trying to defuse this latest situation in order to let that investigation continue and try and accommodate people like Devin Nunes, as Jeff mentioned, who I really don't want to be accommodated. They want to keep this fight going in order to discredit the investigators and the investigation.

CAMEROTA: I think the other problem they have is the timeline. So look at the timeline of what -- we know from even the House Intel Committee's report, even the Devin Nunes's report, that what prompted the FBI investigation West Wing that that George Papadopoulos was talking about how Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. So in may George Papadopoulos tells an Australian diplomat, I believe that's at a bar where he's reportedly drunk, that Russia has political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

In July, two months later, the FBI opens an investigation two months later because the Australian diplomat tips them off that something is going on. So that's when they open their investigation. In September, this unnamed source, this confidential source, meets with the national Trump co-chair of the campaign, Sam Clovis. So they're making it sound, Jeffrey, as though the person was planted in the Trump campaign for political purposes. No, you can see by the timeline, this is how the FBI investigates crimes.

TOOBIN: And remember this is just the latest false charge against the FBI. The other false charge was that the whole investigation was due to the Steele dossier, was due to the private -- British private investigators report that was commissioned eventually by the Clinton campaign. Your timeline shows that that's not true as well.

This is all about attacking the investigation regardless of the facts. The Steele dossier wasn't the start of this. There wasn't a spy planted in the Trump campaign. All of these accusations are false, but they do accomplish the goal of stirring the pot for people who are ill-disposed toward the Democrats anyway.

CUOMO: You can have questions about what the FBI did, how they did it with respect to the campaign. Why did they use a confidential source? Why didn't they do it other ways? They'll have arguments and proof, but there's a way to do it. The president could have done it two different ways. One is let Rosenstein do what he's doing which is with the inspector general, see what the report shows. That takes a long time. That's why the president doesn't like it.

The second way, Jeffrey, was pick up the phone. You're the president of the United States, ask them to come in and brief you and tell you what it was. He could've done that. Guys like you would say don't interfere, but it would be a hell of a lot less interference than what he's doing now. Why didn't he take that root?

TOOBIN: He wants to make this a political issue. What we have seen over the course of the year of the Mueller investigation is that Republicans have grown less and less confident in Mueller's fairness. That is due to the constant attacks from the president. That's what he wants to do. His whole presidency, whether it's in terms of policy or politics, has been about mobilizing and satisfying his base. And that's what -- and that's what he's done with regard to Mueller and attacking Mueller publicly and attacking the FBI are means to that end.

[08:10:11] GREEN: In this case, I don't see him satisfying his base so much as much as leading his base to a helpful conclusion, which is if you can discredit Mueller and these investigators then you can limit the political fallout from what a negative finding from Mueller would mean in political terms, and potentially if Mueller does arrive at the conclusion that there was wrongdoing, prevent yourself from being impeached. If you can convince Republican grassroot voters, if you can intimidate, cajole, persuade Republicans in Congress no to go against you and impeach you, then maybe Trump can survive a negative finding by Mueller. We don't know yet. CUOMO: Hold on a second. The impeachment problem, I don't see -- we have Laurence Tribe on, by the way, the constitutional attorney and professor up at Harvard who's written a book about impeachment recently. But do you even think that impeachment is a possibility, not a probability? Where do they have the votes to get it through the Senate?

GREEN: They don't. But that's exactly the point I'm making which is that Republicans as a party by and large have gotten behind Trump. They have been willing to go along with this effort to discredit the FBI, the Justice Department, the special counsel, his investigators, and the entire affair, which is Trump's game all along to prevent that very outcome, to prevent people in his own party from deciding should Mueller find there was wrongdoing or collusion on the part of Trump and his campaign, to prevent a bad outcome like Richard Nixon had in Watergate.

CAMEROTA: Obviously this is where the midterms come in as well.

GREEN: That has a factor, and Jeff has written about that this week. It also presents Democrats with a problem, which is how hard do you push for this if you win back the House.

CAMEROTA: All right, we have to go.

TOOBIN: But everybody should read my piece in "The New Yorker." Thanks for the plug, Josh, I appreciate that.

GREEN: I'm here to help.

CAMEROTA: I like that.

CUOMO: Always a plus.

President Trump's critics accuse him of setting off a constitutional crisis but battling with his own Justice Department. We have a Harvard professor and constitutional law scholar telling us why the president might be wading into dangerous territory next.


[08:15:50] CUOMO: Top Justice Department officials have agreed to share highly classified information with congressional leaders. It's going to be about the FBI's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The agreement comes after the president made an unusual demand, that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign. Why does this matter? Where might it lead?

Let's discuss this with somebody who understands the law very, very well. Professor Laurence Tribe, Harvard law professor, constitutional scholar, coauthor of the new book, "To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment".

I want to talk to you about the book, Professor. We'll get to it a little bit later on. Thank you for joining us.

What is your concern --


CUOMO: -- about the methods being used by Trump?

TRIBE: I'm concerned that he is disregarding the most fundamental protections that we have for the structure of our government and for our democracy. I mean, we've got irrefutable evidence that a hostile power was trying to meddle with our election and undermine the value of your vote, everyone's vote, that evidence is now beyond dispute.

What does the FBI do? It warns the campaigns that they may be in danger and it also keeps an eye open for strange activity. And as your earlier segment showed it finds plenty of it. It finds Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos and Carter Page connected with the campaign of Donald Trump, getting together with Russians over and over again, and then lying about it. And it looks like there is a conspiracy afoot.

At that point, the Department of Justice is doing exactly what we would want it to do to protect all of us, and it uses a standard technique. It debriefs informers that it's relied on. It's not surveillance, it's not spying.

It warns the Trump campaign, but what does the Trump campaign do? It does nothing. It doesn't protect anybody.

And now, it's using this as a kind of phony excuse to create what could be a constitutional crisis by for the first time in our history, having the president hereby order an investigation by the Justice Department. In our system of government, even though the Justice Department is part of the executive, it is not a situation where it can be ordered whom to investigate.

When the IRS did something not nearly as serious, the country was up in arms. You don't deploy, unless you're Richard Nixon or now Donald Trump, you don't deploy the agencies of the government to shield yourself from inquiry and to prevent the intelligence agencies of this country from protecting us from attack.

CUOMO: You're referring to the IRS looking into different political action groups to see whether or not they were fulfilling their mandate, that was called out by politicians who wound up being investigated internally.

TRIBE: Right.

CUOMO: And they did find some curious things. But that's the reference there.

TRIBE: Right.

CUOMO: Trump's counterargument is, Professor, they spied on me, though. Obama's FBI spied on me because they were out to get me and they didn't have any reason to do it. The counter?

TRIBE: Right, and Chris, there's no basis for that. What if -- what if Trump doesn't like what you say about him and he says, Chris Cuomo spied on me, I want you to investigate him criminally.

That's not the way our system works. The president doesn't pick targets for political reasons. He's doing it to Amazon because he doesn't like what "The Washington Post" says about him and now, he's doing it to his own Justice Department. That kind of crushes the structure of our system.

And we don't have any very good safeguards against that except something that is very unlikely to work without an overwhelming national consensus and that's impeachment. There's a possibility of --


[08:20:10] CUOMO: Right, I want to talk to you about that.


CUOMO: I want to get into that. Let me just ask you one more point because another thing that's getting some purchase that I want to get your take on is, but did they have to do it this way? A confidential source sounds like a spy. He was talking to people obviously without revealing that he was working for the government with different officials in the Trump campaign, sounds like infiltration.

Why isn't it as -- why isn't it as nefarious as it sounds?

TRIBE: Because it's what the investigating arms of the United States and of every state and city do all the time. You know, crooks don't just announce what they're doing. You need to have a bit of undercover help in bringing out the truth.

The Supreme Court ever since the early 1950s has said that the standard technique of using informers to tell you what members of an organized criminal structure or conspiracy are doing isn't even a form of surveillance or search. You don't need a warrant. It's nothing like a FISA warrant.

Just a matter of -- I mean, if some guy like George Papadopoulos gets drunk at a bar and tells the Australian ambassador, you know, I'm working with the Trump people and have we got a lot of dirt on them from Russia about Hillary. You expect the ambassador's going to keep quiet about it? He's going to talk to people.

CUOMO: Papadopoulos thought he'd keep quiet and that was his mistake.

TRIBE: Yes, that was his mistake.

CUOMO: Let me ask you about the book, Professor.

TRIBE: Yes. CUOMO: This book is a really great and pretty digestible walkabout

what impeachment means and where it comes from, it comes with a note of political caution from you that, one, Democrats shouldn't be rushing down the road of impeachment, that there are real implications. But at the same time, you give an interesting take on what you think might qualify as a high crime or misdemeanor, the threshold for articles of impeachment. And you say abuse of power may be something that has to be focused on.

Take us through the case.

TRIBE: Well, the basic point and it's clear from what the framers said at the very beginning and it's clear in the history of the impeachment power is that it's really about abusing the authority that we give to high officials like the president. It's not about garden variety crime.

If it turns out, as I wouldn't be surprised to find, that Donald Trump has been guilty of tax evasion, that may be a crime, but it's not an impeachable offense. On the other hand, if Donald Trump uses the powers of the United States government to cover-up his own criminality or to cover-up the way in which he cooperated with Moscow in order to win the presidency, that may or may not qualify as an ordinary federal crime, but it's certainly an impeachable offense, or if he decides, you know, I'm simply not going to protect the United States from foreign attack, I'm busy making money, I'd rather be a kleptocrat than carry out my oath, that's not a crime but it's certainly a basis for removing a president.

And if the evidence that Robert Mueller is collecting forms a kind compelling case that an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the American people find convincing that this guy is just too dangerous to keep in power, then we do have the emergency power of impeachment available. But it will be available only if we don't use it loosely and kind of ring the bell every time something looks amiss. You can't be the boy who cried wolf and have a viable impeachment power. You can't use it over and over again against the same president.

CUOMO: Right.

TRIBE: If you're going to shoot him, you got to shoot to kill. And that requires an overwhelming majority of a bipartisan kind. Otherwise, you're just going to nick the guy and make him feel empowered and vindicated.

CUOMO: Right. You look at the two examples we have in history of Clinton and, of course, President Johnson. Johnson got by, I think by, what, one vote or something.

TRIBE: One vote, right.

CUOMO: But if you don't have it successfully, if you don't have a real consensus, you now have what you call a wounded and dangerous tiger.

Professor Tribe, appreciate it. TRIBE: Right.

CUOMO: The book is a must read for people who want to talk about this topic. Thank you for being on the show.

TRIBE: Thanks.

[08:25:00] CUOMO: Alisyn?

TRIBE: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: All right. Police are revealing more about the 25 minute armed confrontation that led to the Santa Fe school shooter's surrender. We have a live report for you next.


CAMEROTA: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a threat to Iran, that the U.S. sanctions and military pressure will crush the country. This is what he said during his first speech as America's top diplomat.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the League of Nations. These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history when we are complete.

Iran will be forced to make a choice. Either fight to keep its economy off life support at home, or keep squandering precious wealth and fights abroad. It will not have the resource to do both.


CAMEROTA: Well, the analysts called the administration's stepped up campaign, quote, implicitly a regime change policy after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.

CUOMO: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expected to face tough questions on Capitol Hill today in the wake of the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas. We're also learning more about officer's heroic efforts to engage that murderer and evacuate that school.