Return to Transcripts main page
Report: Trump Elevates Conspiracy Theory Of Spygate; Kushner Security Clearance Restored; Mueller Team Asks Court To Sentence Papadopoulos: NFL Sides With Pro Anthem Forces. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 23, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. The president of the United States has just elevated the conspiracy theory to a government plot with zero evidence, not a single witness, but a new nickname, Spygate. You see it here in this tweet and here he was today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, but a lot of bad things have happened. We now call it Spygate. You're calling it Spygate. A lot of bad things have happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: We're not calling it Spygate. The, quote, spy is the confidential source the FBI used to make contact with these Trump campaign members prior to the election. The aim was to look into Russia's meddling in the United States election. But the president is seizing on these rumors declaring his beliefs on the FBI sources as fact and attacking the credibility of investigators investigating him, took effect March which he denied this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: [inaudible]
TRUMP: All you have to do is look at the basics and you'll see. It looks like a very serious event. We'll find out. When they look at the documents, I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happened. I hope it's not so because if it is, there's never been anything like it in the history of our country. No, no. We're not undercutting. We're cleaning everything up. This was a terrible situation. What we're doing is cleaning everything up. It's so important. What I'm doing is a service to this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: He may say they're cleaning everything up, but the tweet shows how he's coming down on the FBI, quoting him: "Look how things have turned around on the criminal deep state. They go after phony collusion with Russia, a made-up scam and end up getting caught in a major spy scandal the likes of what this country may have never seen before. What goes around comes around."
Let's get to the heart of this whole thing, the president keeps saying spy. The FBI calls the person a confidential source. Let's go now to CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell who left the FBI in protest earlier this year, so he could speak out against political attacks on the bureau. Josh, I want you to fact check the president for me. Just lay out everything that he has gotten wrong.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, so, Brooke, the president is certainly an aficionado when it comes to branding. You think of the Trump hotel, "The Apprentice", these are things that are catchy, and they catch on and become part of our vernacular. The problem here is that Spygate probably isn't going to fall into that category. In order to have a Spygate, you have to have a spy. In this situation we're dealing with a confidential human informant within the FBI. There is a major difference. When you think about a spy, you think about someone skulking in the shadows, whose motives may be questionable. We're talking about an individual assisting law enforcement with working and investigating a lawfully predicated case looking into counterintelligence threats. There's a big difference.
I think when the president talks about a spy versus an informant it comes back to branding. As we look at the meeting that will take place with officials within the Department of Justice and Congress and Congress members, let's talk about the president's authority. The president is the chief executive of the executive branch of government. He has the power to declassify whatever he wants. If he wanted to, he could do that today and send that information to whoever he wants. We're facing a situation where you have an intelligence committee for important method and sources used by the intelligence community and the intelligence community saying we don't want that information in the public. The question now is fast forwarding to tomorrow, what will be the ground rules for this meeting once it takes place?
You'll have Chairman Nunes, Trey Gowdy, officials from the Department of Justice but what will be discussed? As we go in, they have to focus, first of all, on who will be there. There's been a debate whether Democrats have been part of that meeting. Folks I've been talking to in the business of intelligence saying this is the situation where you want nonpartisanship. You want the public to have confidence. If one party is left in the dark, you're going to have questions. When you set the ground rules, DOJ should be bringing both sides together.
[14:05:00] they can dictate that and say, we want to sit down with you unless you bring both sides. I think that's very important. And then the last thing I'll say is what will be on the table as far as fair game for discussion? We talk about sources and methods. Will they get into the specific details of the source or keep it more broad? I think it's yet to be seen but a lot of questions that have to be answered now as we go into this potential showdown tomorrow.
BALDWIN: Josh Campbell, thank you so much. Of course, we'll be covering that meeting tomorrow when it happens. To our legal minds now. Jeffrey Toobin is our chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. Jennifer Taub is professor and expert on white collar crime. You have this conspiracy theory president who has launched this mega PR blitz based on total rumor. Who's helping him? Who's behind this?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think this is a part -- it's an effort by the president and his allies in Congress, mostly in the House of Representatives to discredit the Mueller investigation and discredit the FBI's role in it. You know, frankly it's hard to follow the details of what's going on here. Those of us -- I do it for a living, you do it for a living, but if you -- and the president has biggest microphone of them all. If he says this is a scandal, if he says this is Spygate, a lot of people will believe him. We have a situation where 40 percent of the public supports him. We're in a very polarized moment. I don't think he's going to convince a lot of people who aren't already favorably disposed to him but by branding this accusation, a lot of people will buy it.
BALDWIN: We'll get to how successful this is working depending what section of the country you're talking about. But to your point on enablers and Republicans in the House, you have to call them out, right? It's members of Congress, also certain members of the media who are enabling the president and peddling these theories I just wanted everyone to know that the James Comey tweet, the last line, yes, he is the fired FBI director, but the last line of his tweet on all of this, was this: "How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?" Fair point?
JENNIFER TAUB, PROFESSOR AND EXPERT ON WHITE COLLAR CRIME: I think it's a fair point. I don't know how anyone can explain this right now or in the future. I mean, the thing about Donald Trump spitting out these unfounded conspiracy theories, it's out of desperation. Because reality is not on his side. And he's a long-time con artist. You mentioned enablers. I think con artists need two people types of to keep the con going, they need the enablers who know what's going on, but are benefiting from the con, and they also need people they target, their marks.
And then there's the rest of us. It's really disappointing for those members of Congress who are whispering among themselves, and I'm speaking about the Republicans, that they don't trust this guy, that this is outrageous, he's undermining the rule of law, he's trying to target Bob Mueller, but they don't speak out about it publicly. Or if they do, it's those who are not running for office again.
BALDWIN: So, you call it a con. When you look at how effective he is, there are recent CNN polls that show that Republicans have indeed soured on Bob Mueller and what he's trying to do in this whole investigation. The other piece of it is you have this one side of the story, which is Trump pushing these theories. You don't have Bob Mueller because he can't talk right now until the investigation is wrapped.
TOOBIN: You know, the fact that most Republicans believe him is indicative of where our politics are generally.
TAUB: This is not normal.
TOOBIN: It's not normal. But all of the -- you know, there was this brief moment where there was bipartisan embrace of Mueller, that Mueller was perceived as someone who was outside politics, above politics but what Trump and his allies have succeeded in doing is making Mueller and his investigation into another political player. And I don't think it's an accurate perception of what Mueller is doing but in the absence of his voice and the absence of other people who are authoritative responding, this is where we are. By the way, I don't think it's going to interfere with the Mueller investigation. Mueller is going to do what he is going to do unless he gets fired.
BALDWIN: But it just makes you think down the road when Mueller finds whatever he finds based upon all this -- from the president. Then what?
TOOBIN: People will respond to it in the exactly polarized way they respond to every issue right now. 40 percent will not approve, 55 or so will approve of Mueller. Which is where things are now.
BALDWIN: Let me hit a pause, have to pause on this conversation. Let's get a quick break and I have more questions for you guys on this and also some other breaking news.
[14:10:00] We have in this whole Mueller investigation involving the former Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty who Trump allies have dismissed as "the coffee boy." Is George Papadopoulos about to learn his punishment for lying to the FBI?
Also, did the NFL just side with President Trump? The commissioner announcing a new rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem and outlining what the penalty will be if they do not. We'll get reaction and discuss what this means for the season I had. You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.
BALDWIN: We have some breaking news now involving the White House. Let's go straight to our justice correspondent over there in Washington, Evan Perez. We've also got Gloria Borger up there as well. What's going on with Jared Kushner?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: At this hour we're finding the White House HAS now restored Jared Kushner's security clearance. If you remember, it was suspended back in February when the White House was doing an overhaul of security clearances after the rob porter scandal. He was still employed at the White House despite the allegations of spousal abuse. So, the security clearances of Jared Kushner and other top officials who had been pending was suspended at the time. We're told that the word now from the White House is that it is now officially restored. This is something that people close to Jared Kushner say was done through the normal process. There was no pressure put on the FBI that did the review for the security clearances. No pressure was put on from the president or anybody else.
Obviously, we know that there's been months of a cloud over Jared Kushner about the security clearance. In his first submission, if you recall, back in 2017 there was a number of -- dozens of foreign contacts left off the application. Those omissions were later corrected in later submissions but now officially Jared Kushner can say he has a full permanent security clearance cleared by the FBI at this point.
BALDWIN: Security clearance restored. Gloria, jump in on how he met with team Mueller another time.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He did in April we know meet with the special counsel team for a seven-hour interview. And our source familiar is telling us that he was not asked about his business dealings but rather other issues that we would have expected him to be asked about. You'll recall in November we broke the news that Jared had been interviewed by the special counsel for 90 minutes to two hours, but it was largely limited to questions about General Flynn. This time clearly the interview was more substantive and involved, you know, Jared Kushner himself. What we don't know is whether that interview is related to the fact that Jared Kushner has now gotten his security clearance. But it would seem to me and Evan knows more about this that if the special counsel had a lot of lingering questions, that the security clearance would not have been approved.
PEREZ: Let me just add real quick. We know among of things he was asked about was obviously his role in the campaign, his role in the transition.
[14:15:00] He met with Ambassador Kislyak of Russia and that is one thing that obviously has been hanging over this and that is something that we know Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating. We also know at least according to the person we talked to that post inauguration one of the things the special counsel did cover was the issue of the firing of James Comey the former FBI director. You remember that people close to Jared Kushner have been saying he played no role whatsoever in the president's decision to fire James Comey. That is obviously something, though, we know that he was in New Jersey at the president's golf club what that decision was made. This was brought up in this interview with Robert Mueller's team.
BORGER: Right, because people who are not close to Jared Kushner made the point to us as we were reporting the story of the firing of Comey that he drove the decision as opposed to be just a bystander in the decision and approving of it after the president made the decision to do it. So clearly that's an important topic of conversation because when you think about the question of obstruction and the president of the United States, firing of James Comey looms very large in that.
BALDWIN: Do you think, turning to you Jeff Toobin, on the fact that Kushner did talk again to the Mueller team for I think Gloria said seven hours, not related to business dealings but a lot of other territory covered. For A, what do you make of that and, B, do you think those other issues they discussed would be things that perhaps Trump doesn't want to talk about with Mueller?
TOOBIN: It hard 's hard to know and good news for Jared Kushner that his security clearance had been restored. That was an embarrassment to both of them given how close he is to the president. And the fact that he did give another voluntary interview to Mueller's office is I suppose good news because it shows he was cooperating with the investigation. But what he said and what he was questioned about, it's really -- it's very hard to know. Obviously, there is this investigation of obstruction of justice. Was there -- did the president improperly fire Robert Mueller -- fire James Comey and that legal question and that fact you'll question is something that, you know, that Mueller is obviously vetting. The other issue is what was the contact between Russia and the campaign, what he said, how much Mueller knows, we don't know.
BALDWIN: We have more news on the Mueller investigation involving the former Trump campaign advisor who should pleaded guilty. So that's coming up.
And also, ahead, a stunning decision straight from Roger Goodell himself, what the NFL has just decided what the players are allowed to do in the national anthem and how the players union is now responding.
[14:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: More breaking news this afternoon about someone who has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians, talking about George Papadopoulos, the former foreign policy advisor on president Trump's 2016 campaign. He's about to face sentencing. Let's go to Shimon Prokupecz. What are you hearing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Clearly a key move here by the special counsel. It signals now perhaps they are done with George Papadopoulos and his cooperation. He's been providing them information for months now, cooperating with them. Just within the last hour the special counsel's office filed a status report, that they are ready for him to be sentenced, that they are ready in about 30 days or so. This indicates, as I said, his cooperation is for the most part complete and whatever information he has been providing to the special counsel has likely come to an end.
At the sentencing I think what will happening is that we'll learn exactly just how he's been cooperating, perhaps the prosecutors will put out a letter saying just what kind of information he's been providing, which will ultimately affect the type of sentence that he receives from the judge. You know, Brooke, this is just another sign. We have the Kushner news today and now this today that seems that the special counsel is moving through some of these issues in their investigation and perhaps coming closer to an end, at least in terms of some of the parts of this investigation.
BALDWIN: Shimon, thank you for the news. Jeffrey Toobin, he said it. I think what he was saying is that it seems like it's nearing an end perhaps or an end to the Russian infiltration part of the investigation?
[12:25:00] TOOBIN: The reason this is significant is because when someone pleads guilty, prosecutors like to hold out sentencing at leverage, as in you better be honest with us because we're going to talk to the judge and whether you were cooperating fully. Leaving sentencing open is a major point of leverage over someone pleading guilty. The fact that Mueller's off is saying they're ready to proceed to sentencing, they got what they wanted from him, they don't need the leverage over him anymore.
BALDWIN: OK. Jeffrey Toobin, just to sticking around. Ahead to the NFL we go. Did the NFL just side with the president of the United States? Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing a new rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem and outlining what the penalty will be if they do not. Reaction? Next.
BALDWIN: Breaking news in the culture war involving the president and America's biggest, most popular sport, the NFL just announced it's banning players from kneeling on the field during the national anthem. It requires all team personnel to stand and show respect to the flag when the national anthem is played. Dissenters are allowed to stay back in the locker room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: If anyone is on the field and disrespectful to the anthem or the flag, there would be a fine from the league against the team. The team will have its own work rules that will be consistent with the overall policy and make their own decision about how to manage that.
All 32 clubs want to make sure that during the moment of the anthem and the flag that that is a very important moment to all of us as a league, as clubs personally and to our country and that's a moment that we want to make sure is done in a very respectful fashion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Here's what the NFL player union is saying: "The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new "policy." Our union will review the new policy and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement."