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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Volcano Disaster in Hawaii; President Trump Pushes FBI Conspiracy Theory. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired May 23, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are back and continuing the conversation with my political panel.
So, you remarked, Nina, that General Clapper seems...
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Heavy.
TAPPER: Tired and...
TURNER: Yes, very heavy.
TAPPER: Like this is all weighing on him a lot.
TURNER: It is.
And it is all right to disagree on issues, but when you start calling people names and they're going to wear orange suits and all of that, that is just heavy. And for a man who has really dedicated his life to this country, agree or disagree on his stances, but to allow those kinds of -- that narrative at him.
And he just seemed very heavy in that interview in terms of really trying to explain what he was trying to say.
TURNER: And all of the accusations coming from the president doesn't help us with the healing process.
It is just wrong. And so to see him in that emotional state just did something to me.
TAPPER: And it is true. When you see, whether it is John Brennan, the former CIA director, or Michael Hayden, Bush's CIA director and NSA director, whether you see General Clapper, there are a lot of people who have devoted their lives to national security and intelligence with records that are certainly worth analyzing, criticizing, whatever, but who seem really just exhausted about President Trump.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is tough. And they need to find some get-up and go and muster up some energy to defend their life's work. I have a lot of respect for James Clapper, but that interview, he
wasn't clear. They need to me much clearer. People have legitimate questions about why this investigation was started, because they don't understand.
I don't think it is that hard to figure out. There was a lot of questionable contacts with foreign nationals. They lied about it. A lot of questionable trips to Moscow, and they had some people look into it and decided to start the investigation on July 31.
Why is that so hard for them to explain? Because they need to do it. This is a fight in the media, and the public arena, and you will get destroyed by conspiracy theories and nonsense if you can't get your message out.
So, if they can't do it, you need to find someone in the intelligence community with experience that can, make them a face, make them do the rounds, because you are losing this fight right now.
TAPPER: One of the things that I -- one of the reasons why I think it is difficult for the intelligence officials, former or current, to talk about this is that it deals a lot with confidential informants and other sources and methods.
CARPENTER: But there's a lot in the public arena. The timeline is out there from the public media reports.
TAPPER: We know, for instance, that George Papadopoulos had a conversation with somebody with ties to the Kremlin.
TAPPER: While he worked for Trump in spring 2016, in which he suggested he knew something about Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
TAPPER: And we know that Papadopoulos had a conversation with an Australian diplomat about that. We know...
TURNER: While he was drunk.
TAPPER: We know that there was an enticing and a dangle of sorts by someone talking about how a Russian government lawyer had dirt on Hillary Clinton. We know all of this.
TURNER: Yes, and that the campaign's propensity to use that from a foreign country, that becomes the issue.
But to Amanda's point, maybe it is somebody more detached, and your point, from the intelligence community that doesn't have to be so guarded, because they are trying to protect sensitive information. Maybe it's somebody else that is the person who can explain this in
layman's terms why all of this is important, even beyond Russia, really is to protect this country.
TAPPER: And, Amanda, as you know, one of the other reasons why this all gets swirled in a mess of conspiracy theories and more is because there are legitimate things to criticize the FBI about.
The inspector general of the FBI put -- or of the DOJ put out a very scathing report on Andrew McCabe, who was James Comey's number two. James Comey has this book. A lot of people found decisions and things he wrote about in the book to be worth controversy and worth questioning, if not attacking itself.
CARPENTER: Yes, I think it is legitimate. The FBI did become politicized during the last election.
I think, for a lot of reasons, Comey was in a box. He could do no right. But someone needs to explain why they made the decisions they did. You can't just put it out in a book and say, I answered all the questions there, because this is an hour-to-hour fight in the media.
And it matters. Someone needs to be willing to fight for the truth and fight the integrity of these agencies. If there's mistakes made, so be it. We all deserve to know what happened.
TURNER: And to say that people make mistakes. In this intense political environment, kill people at all costs, do anything to win, it makes it hard for people to be genuine in that way.
But you're right. We have -- somebody has to muster up that courage to be genuine.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.
A live look at the molten hot lava flow in Hawaii, where the looming threat grows by the minute.
That story coming up.
TAPPER: And we have some breaking news in our politics lead.
New allegations about the 2016 presidential campaign. President Trump's former campaign adviser Michael Caputo says that, during the campaign, a government contractor told him that the U.S. intelligence community had Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails, and that person, speaking through an intermediary, suggested to Caputo that the Trump campaign should try to get their hands on them.
Now Caputo system he believes the entire conversation was maybe part of a government conspiracy to entrap Trump allies and team members. We are going to talk to Caputo in a second. But, first, CNN's Sara Murray joins me.
And, Sara, this all started with a conversation about Clinton's e- mails at the Kentucky Derby, of all places. How did it lead to everything else that came from there?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, and so we're now we're in this place where, was it a government conspiracy, was innocuous cocktail party chatter?
And the answer is, it depends on who you ask? What happened is, there is this Kentucky Derby party in May of 2016, and a guy says he's about to go work for the Trump campaign. This guy's name is Kirk Bell, and strikes up a conversation with a government contractor, who basically says, you know, if you guys are interested in opposition research on Hillary Clinton, you should go poking around the U.S. intelligence community, because there are these e-mails going around that appear to be part of Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails, but, at any rate, they show some kind of sort of shady activity on the part of Hillary Clinton.
There seems to be some alleged pay-to-play situation between the State Department and top aides there when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and some of the Clinton Family Foundation.
So, Kirk Bell goes to his friend Michael Caputo, who you will talk to, who was working for the Trump campaign, and says, this seems kind of interesting. They go back and forth. And Caputo ultimately decides he's not going to pursue talking to the government contractor, he's not going to pursue trying to get his hands on these e-mails because he's concerned that he wind up with classified information on his hands that he's not allowed to have access to, and he could get into legal trouble.
But, apparently, this has irked Mr. Caputo for quite some time. He told the House Intelligence Committee about it when he testified before them and the Senate Intelligence Committee. He told Mueller's team when he met before them.
And then when there were these other media reports that came out just recently that an FBI confidential source had approached Trump campaign advisers previously, Caputo got to thinking, look, maybe this was all part of a big government conspiracy. Maybe someone was trying to entrap Trump campaign aides into trying to get ahold of this classified information.
But I will tell you that I also spoke to the government contractor, who said, this is insanity. This person said, look, I was just having a conversation at a cocktail party. I was essentially telling them, here is where to look. Go do your own homework. I didn't have any possession of these e-mails. I couldn't verify that anything I had seen was actually valid.
And so that is where we are.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thanks so much. And let's now talk to that former Trump campaign adviser, Michael
Michael, good to see you, as always.
Other than your conversation with the contractor, do you have any evidence that the government was conspiring against you, or is this just a strong suspicion?
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I have a strong suspicion on this and another approach that -- that have been bothering me for quite some time.
And, also, I think it is important to say that this former government contractor who was in the national security arena had -- had said to Kirk Bell that -- that he actually saw documents that indicated that these e-mails were in the hands of the NSA. So from my perspective, you know he analogies, he's a little bit more you know, a little bit more reticent to talk about this that he was in May of 2016. And of course, he came back to Kirk Bell in late July of 2016 to remind him that these e-mails were in the hands of the National Security Agency. So you know, maybe what he's saying now isn't what he said two years ago. You're right it bothered me for two years, but what has to happen here I believe is that this investigation that the President asked for and received at the Department of Justice where they're now going to look into what kind of approaches came from the law enforcement and national security arena to the Trump campaign. I'd like to talk to them. I think that government contractors should talk to them as well. Let's see how he recalls things when he's sitting at the DOJ.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So Michael, you made a reference to a second approach. Is that something that you're prepared to talk about right now or no?
CAPUTO: No, I'm not. And again, I'm thanking God that the President has called for this investigation at the and the DOJ agreed to do so because I would love to talk about that second approach. I would -- I got to tell you, it's something I don't want to talk about because it was discussed in my meeting with the Mueller investigators. You know, the problem with that approach in early May from that former government contractor in the national security arena is that it always bugged me for two years. It didn't make any sense to me, but when I told investigators in the House and the Senate and with the Muller team about it they didn't seem to be interested. That to me indicated that it was something I should be interested in. The problem with this second approach is it's something that was discussed at length with the Mueller investigation. And because of that, I don't think I should discuss it at length on television but I'm eager to tell the Department of Justice because frankly, I don't think the Mueller investigation is being straight up about it.
TAPPER: OK, but you also -- just to play devil's advocate here, Michael, you also told this to the investigation in the House Intelligence Committee which is headed up by a strong ally of President Trump, I think that's fair to say, Devon Nunez. But you say they didn't follow up on it -- on it either but you're -- because they didn't follow up on it, you think that means they already knew about it. Am I -- am I taking the right way?
TAPPER: OK --
CAPUTO: Well, actually I came -- I'll explain. If you're talking about the early May approach from the former government contractor, I did not tell the House Intelligence Committee until after my hearing because I would call it later and I gave the information later to an individual investigator not to the committee itself. The fact that he wasn't interested, you know, we had a brief meeting in the office when I was reviewing my testimony, I said you know, I wasn't completely responsive because this happened. And he said, thank you very much, took the information, but if they didn't do anything about it. The reason why I was concerned is because my friend, the intermediary, never got a call from any investigator at any investigation in the Congress or from the Muller people and to me that just stunk up to high heaven.
TAPPER: All right, we got a call from Sara Murray, and we're going to keep reporting this out. Michael Caputo, thanks so much. Stay in touch. We want to keep finding out more about this. Coming up next, a live look at the lava flow in Hawaii that keeps getting more dangerous by the minute. That story next. Stay with us.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: We're back with our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. Unbelievable images from Hawaii even more lava is spewing across the big island there along with ash and toxic gases. You're looking now at blue flames caused by highly explosive methane gas a byproduct of the eruption. One witness describing the scene to CNN as complete and total destruction. I want to bring in CNN's Stephanie Elam. She's live on the ground in Hawaii. Stephanie, our residents likely to see any relief anytime soon?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's the thing, Jake. And that's the hard part for the people who are living through this is the fact that there is no end in sight to this eruption. It's sort of that Groundhog Day effect of each day waking up. And for many of the residents who own homes in Leilani Estates, running in in the morning to check on their property to make sure that their homes are still there. We just went inside the area again today. And when you look at that, those crevices that have been created by the moving ground, you can see they start with small cracks and then they get so big. It looks like some of them you can fit a small car inside of them. Some of those creeping closer to homes and in some places, they're filling up with lava. One resident was actually shooting the lava with her phone just behind her one-acre lot which was creeping down the road. This is what they're dealing with inside there and it's eerily quiet. Everything inside there is a sickly yellow-brown around these vents. All the vegetation that you would associate with Hawaii of being that bright vibrant green, all of it is at this weird yellow-brown and those gas vapors are everywhere in there. So it's still a very precarious situation, Jake.
TAPPER: So you talked about the gas vapors there, how is the air quality generally?
ELAM: In general, it's something that you have to watch day-in day- out because the winds can change direction. We benefit from these trade winds here on this part of Hawaii. They were great yesterday, but I'm looking behind me at this plume, it's hard for you to see because it just looks like it's white when you look at it through the camera. But when I look at it now, I can see that they're lingering over the area. And that could be a problem for the people who are still going in and out. The residents are allowed to do that to get in, check on their homes during the day but that is part of the concern here, is this air quality and it is making it hard for these residents as they deal with this problem. That doesn't seem to have an end, Jake.
[16:55:10] TAPPER: Stephanie Elam in Hawaii, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Don't forget. You can watch the live stream of this natural disaster, this lava flow on cnn.com. CNN has just learned that the President's son-in-law and Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner sat down with Special Counsel Muller's team for a second time. An exclusive interview with Kushner's attorney next in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Stay tuned.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, meeting with Mueller. Even as he finally regains his security clearance, the President's Senior Adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner meets again with the Special Counsel's team and is questioned for seven hours.