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Jared Kushner's Security Clearance Restored; Why Does Trump Bash Press?; NFL Requiring Players to Stand During National Anthem. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And, Evan Perez, tell me -- tell me what you know.


Gloria Borger and I have learned that Jared Kushner's security clearance was restored today officially. As you mentioned, it had been previously suspended back in February. If you remember, that was during the Rob Porter scandal, where Rob Porter was allowed to remain on staff at the White House despite allegations of spousal abuse.

John Kelly, the chief of staff, then had suspended the security clearance of everybody whose clearance was pending. And that included the president's senior adviser, Jared Kushner, of course.

We have heard now from Abbe Lowell, who is Kushner's attorney, and he says this is a process that was a long time in coming. This was something that was delayed, he says, in part by the fact that Kushner's application for security clearance was very complicated and the fact that there was a backlog that begins for every new administration.

The second piece of news that we have from Gloria Borger and myself is that Jared Kushner went in for a second interview with the special counsel, Robert Mueller. This happened in mid-April. He sat for seven hours, answered questions, a number of questions on different topics, a lot of it having to do with his role in the campaign, his role in the presidential transition, as well as some questions after President Trump took office.

And that includes questions about his role, what role, if any, he played in the president's decision to fire James Comey, the former FBI director. This is obviously something that had been anticipated that he would do. He had previously sat for an initial interview, Brooke, back in November.

This happened right before Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to false statement charges. So that was -- that interview was focused on Mike Flynn. We're told that this was a much more obviously broad set of questions that were being asked of him in this seven-hour interview. Abbe Lowell again said -- gave us a statement. I will read just a

little part of it that says -- he says: "A year ago, Jared was one of the first to voluntarily cooperate with any investigations into the 2016 campaign and related topics. Since then, he has continued his complete cooperation, providing a large number of documents and sitting for hours of interviews with congressional committees and providing numerous documents and sitting for two interviews with the office of special counsel."

Obviously, in the view of people close to Jared, he thinks that everything is done now, that he's done with these investigations. Obviously, we will hear the final word when Robert Mueller finishes his investigation.


Let me come back to you with a follow-up on the Mueller reporting you have.

But, Bradley, over to you, as the security piece of Evan's reporting is germane for what you do. What does the full security clearance means in terms of Kushner, who obviously works very closely with the president, his ability to do his job?

BRADLEY P. MOSS, ATTORNEY: He's good to go now.

He has his -- as far as we understand, he's got now a top-secret security clearance with access to eligibility, what is called sensitive compartmented information. This is some of the government's most sensitive, most closely held secrets.

He's supposed to be the one running Middle East peace and negotiating all kinds of deals overseas. He now has access to all that information. And what I want to understand as we go forward with this, and as reporting eventually continues to come out, just kind of following up what Evan was saying, is, did the FBI conduct an interview with Mr. Kushner or did they rely upon what Mr. Mueller did?

That is key to finding out just how serious this vetting truly was.

BALDWIN: On the notion, Evan, that, as you say, I think you said seven hours was the second moment where Kushner sitting down with Mueller.

We're hearing a lot at the same time about these Trump team negotiations with Mueller on will there be an interview, right? How narrow should the questioning be? Where do we stand on that?

PEREZ: Well, Brooke, I think that's a negotiation that we're seeing live in through -- going through the process, essentially.

You see the Trump legal team using the press essentially to negotiate with the special counsel. And here's what we have been told so far. They have been pushing for the special counsel to limit, to narrow the scope of the interview. They say that they don't want any questions having to do with things

after the president took office. This has to be Russia-related, has to be before the presidential -- before he took office. And they say that they're willing for him to sit down with this interview again under a narrow scope, and then for additional questions to be put toward the president in writing.

Now, I call that the take-home test. Right? You remember being in college and being able to take home the test and then you provide the answers. So we don't know whether that will work or not.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, we're told, according to sources, have -- has indicated that he's not willing or he's not inclined to do any kind of written question and answer. He wants a fulsome interview. And so we will see whether these negotiations go forward.

We're told that they're making progress. Someone called it progress as being inching forward, so to speak. But, look, I mean, I think everybody knows that they're trying to get this done before the beginning of the -- before the summer really because we're looking at the midterm elections coming up.



PEREZ: And I think the special counsel wants to make sure that he doesn't do anything that...

BALDWIN: Separate.

PEREZ: Right, that influences the elections.

BALDWIN: Evan Perez, thank you so much, as always.

Now to the president and his peddling of a multitude of conspiracy theories, specifically the one that the FBI spied on his campaign. He repeated the rumor again today, offering no proof, not a single witness.

He did give a new name, new monitor to this whole thing, calling it spygate.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But a lot of bad things have happened. We now calling it spygate. You're calling it spygate.

A lot of bad things have happened.

All you have to do is look at the basics, and you will see it looks like a very serious event. But we will 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. I hope -- I mean, if you look at Clapper, he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday, inadvertently.


BALDWIN: Here's what James Clapper actually said:


QUESTION: So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump's campaign?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, they were not. They were spying on -- a term I don't particularly like -- but on what the Russians were doing, trying to understand, were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence, which is what they do.

QUESTION: So, why doesn't he like that? He should be happy.


CLAPPER: Well, he should be.


BALDWIN: Let's go to our CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish, host of "SMERCONISH" here on Saturday mornings and the author of a new book coming out next week called "Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right."

I love that song. I love that song.

Michael Smerconish, so good to see you. Congrats on the book.

On this notion of this conspiracy theory president, right, he has launched this mega-P.R. campaign, trying to delegitimize the justice community. We heard him earlier today saying this thing is called spygate, you're calling it spygate. And, P.S., no, we're not calling it spygate.

But these are not normal times. How do you think he's doing this and who is aiding him?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he's probably pretty effective thus far.

It's hard not for me to see it as an attempt at inoculation. He lays out that moniker spygate. It sort of spreads among his base and prepares them that, if and when there's a report issued by special counsel Robert Mueller that goes to Rod Rosenstein that we all get to see -- a lot of ifs in there -- that builds a case for obstruction of justice against the president, they will have been prepared, prepared to believe that it was all a witch-hunt, that it was all by virtue of spygate, that it was all a setup.

And it really does, Brooke, is it prays upon the attention span of the American people, because this is a very complicated story, and it requires a lot of read-in to come to terms with what transpired.

I think I have a handle on it, but here's one area of agreement with the president. I want to see all the documents. I want transparency. I want to know what transpired here.

BALDWIN: What about, though, the people who are enabling the president, right, the members of the media, specifically House Republicans, certain channels, certain conservative hosts like this?


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: In the center of maybe the greatest scandal in modern political history, the FBI spying on the 2016 Trump campaign for nearly two years. Obama administration officials and their dutiful lackeys in the press hysterically denied any of that even happened. Now we know that it did happen.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: The latest details on the Russia investigation are beginning to make Watergate looks like child's play.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: We will lose the country. We will destroy the rule of law. We will shred our Constitution completely.


BALDWIN: Now, I'm with you on transparency. I'm with you on that, but when you look at this last line -- you just heard all those clips.


BALDWIN: You look at this last line from James Comey's tweet, he said, "How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?"

How will they?

SMERCONISH: If I only watched that news outlet, and if I only heard talking points from that side of the political spectrum, I would be mad as hell and not prepared to take it much longer.

I mean, people need to investigate this using evidentiary thinking. By the way, I think I can do it relatively straightforward, which is to say that a London-based professor reports to a Trump campaign affiliate, Papadopoulos, that the Russians are sitting on a treasure trove of Hillary dirt e-mails.

Papadopoulos, in some booze-fueled sit-down with the Australian ambassador, tells him what he knows. The Australian ambassador reports that to the American authorities, and an investigation is launched.


And so I say, stop the frame right there and ask yourself, what would you want our government to do? The only answer is to say, well, my God, an enemy of the United States, because that's what Vladimir Putin is, we want that examined. Now, is the net effect of that embedding a -- quote -- "spy" in the

Trump campaign? I don't think that's what this story is all about. I think it is all about going back to the professor and others and finding out, where did you get your information?

And, of course, against this backdrop, Brooke, comes the WikiLeaks dump, which takes this to a DEFCON 5. So, what I'm trying to say is, you would want this investigated.

And I question -- ready for this?


SMERCONISH: I question the patriotism of anybody who wouldn't want it looked at as it was going down.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

On the transparency note -- and, again, that's what the president says he wants, right? But then on that, how do you explain then this meeting tomorrow, that the White House isn't inviting Democrats to this classified meeting where they're demanding this transparency?

SMERCONISH: It's so sad, because our partisan differences and the political divide always used to stop at the water's edge and we would unite against a common foe.

And thus is the extent of polarization in this country and the partisan difference among elected officials, because, in that book of -- that you referenced, I don't think it exists among the American people. But now those partisan differences extend globally, into foreign policy, into national security, and I think leaves us vulnerable.

BALDWIN: Michael Smerconish, thank you so much.

Quick programming note. We played the clip of James Clapper, former director of national intelligence. James Clapper will be on "THE LEAD" at the top of the hour. So, don't miss that.

Just in here, did the NFL decide with President Trump over a major culture war issue? The commissioner announcing a new rule requiring players stand for the national anthem and what the penalty will be if they do not.

And President Trump blocking his critics on Twitter. A federal judge just weighed in on whether that is actually a violation of the First Amendment.

And, in perhaps what is the oddest story of the day, you have two parents suing their 30-year-old son who refuses to move out of the house. And a judge agrees, saying, dude, it time to go.

Their son tells me his side of the story.


BALDWIN: Breaking news in this whole culture war involving the president and America's most popular sport, football.

The NFL just announced it's banning players from kneeling on the field during the national anthem. This new rule requires all team personnel to stand and to show respect for the flag when the anthem is played. Dissenters can hang back in the locker room.

But the league can impose fines on teams if anyone breaks the new rule.

Here is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.


ROGER GOODELL, NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE COMMISSIONER: If anyone is on the field and is 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. They will be consistent with the overall policy and they will make their own decisions 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.


BALDWIN: New reaction coming in from team owners.

New York Jets' CEO tweeting: "I will support our players wherever we land as a team. Our focus is not on imposing any club rules, fines, or restrictions. Instead, we will continue to work closely with our players to constructively advance social justice issues that are important to us."

Of course, let's just rewind the clock and remember that this whole thing started back in 2016. It was former quarterback Colin Kaepernick who took a knee to protest police killing people of color in this country, and then it went on obviously to the president weighing in.

So, let me bring in retired NFL player Ephraim Salaam and CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson, conservative radio host of "The Ben Ferguson Show."


Ephraim, to you first.


BALDWIN: Good to see you. Good to see both of you all.


BALDWIN: Ephraim, what do you think?

SALAAM: I think they missed the mark here.

I think a group of billionaires got into a room and came up with rules to benefit themselves and not the actual players, and to also make it more divisive than it was before.

So, think about this. If a player decides to protest, and he decides to stay into the locker room until the anthem is done, then he comes out, what's going to happen? Of course, the boos.

But not only that. When I played, sometimes, I had to get extra treatment before the game starts. So if I'm not on the field during the anthem...

BALDWIN: Like extra treatment, like physical therapy?

SALAAM: Right.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

SALAAM: Physical therapy, so I can get myself ready to play.


SALAAM: So, now reporters and everybody else are going to be looking for the players that are missing. Right?


BALDWIN: They're going to be focusing on who is hanging back in the locker room.

SALAAM: Which makes it a more divisive situation.

So, I think they definitely missed the mark. And now they're just trying -- they actually sided with Donald Trump in terms of, we're going to impose these rules to affect our -- that affected our bottom line. So, it's not really about us and the players coming together. It's more so about us and protecting our brand.

And I think that's a great miscarriage of justice.

BALDWIN: All right.

Ben, how do you see it?


Two things. One, if you're getting treatment before the game, and a reporter asks you a question, you can simply fix that by saying, I was having treatment before the game. It was not about the national anthem.

Second thing, if the players are hell-bent on doing this during the game, then just pay the fines, and have the cash come out of your pocket.


You keep saying the billionaires did this for them. Well, you are being paid millions of dollars because of a successful league and people that watch the games and come to the games and purchase things, which has allowed for the massive salaries that you're getting now in the NFL.

If you don't protect that, these billionaires don't protect the league and the fans and people that are watching, those salaries will no longer expand at the massive growth that they have had.

So, for the players that are mad, go ahead and do whatever you want to do. Get ready to pay the fine.

And the last thing is this. People keep saying that the rights of the players are being infringed upon here. No, they're not. You still have the right to freedom of speech and expression. You're just having to play by the rules that every other person that goes to work has.

There are certain things you can and cannot do at work. There are certain things you can and cannot say at work. There are certain things that you can and cannot wear at work.

This is a normal work environment. All of these players still have the right protest after the game, before the game, on their own time during the summer months.

No one's rights have been hurt here or abused. You still have the freedom of speech, freedom of expression. But when you go to work, there's a protocol. And these players are being held to a protocol, while making hundreds of millions of dollars.

BALDWIN: Ephraim?

SALAAM: I get what you're saying.

But what we're not talking about is the narrative that was changed. The narrative was changed about bringing awareness to police brutality in minority communities to now being disrespectful to the...

FERGUSON: You can still do that.

SALAAM: Wait a minute. Hold on.

Being disrespectful to the flag. That's not the intent. When this all started 16 months ago with Colin Kaepernick, or longer than that, with Colin Kaepernick, Nate Boyer, who was a former NFL player and a military veteran, came to Colin Kaepernick when he was sitting down and said, hey, that's a sign of disrespect. If you want to get your point across and still be respectful to the country and the flag, take a knee. That is a sign of respect of the flag.

So, now the narrative has shifted from that to him being disrespectful for taking a knee. And if you look at the flag code, nowhere in the flag code does it state that taking a knee at the national anthem is disrespectful to the country or the flag.

But what it does mention is, if you wear the American flag, if you eat off the American flag, if you do a myriad of other things, that is being disrespectful to the American flag, and you're unpatriotic.


SALAAM: So, my problem, my problem is the narrative.


BALDWIN: Hang on, Ben.


SALAAM: Wait a second. Ben, I got you.

But my problem is the narrative being shifted off of what the current issue was to now to pacify those who think it's unpatriotic, when it is not.

BALDWIN: OK. Ben, go.

FERGUSON: Let me say this, two different things.

You said that the narrative's been changed. The narrative got changed when Colin Kaepernick started wearing socks that depict police officers as pigs and shirts that had dictators on them. And then you lost the narrative completely when your biggest day of protest was not because of police brutality.

It was because of Donald Trump's comments about honoring the flag and standing. And that's the day that you lost this country. When the NFL players stayed in the locker room, and there was the biggest day, joined together of players that protested, it was because of comments by Donald Trump.

And it hurt the NFL and it hurt viewership and it hurt sponsorship and everything else. That's why the owners have said, we're not going to continue to go down this road. Now, I will say this to the players.

BALDWIN: Last thought. Last thought.

FERGUSON: If you firmly believe so much in what you're saying about police brutality, then continue to protest and pay the fines. Put your money where your mouth is. But your rights have not been taken away from you here. This is a job in a private sector.


FERGUSON: ... the NFL if you want to. BALDWIN: Ephraim, I know you want to jump in. Hang on. We got to leave it, because I got to get to this 30-year-old gentleman.


BALDWIN: And I want you all to please stick around. But I appreciate that.

SALAAM: Forget about him. Forget about him.

BALDWIN: No, I appreciate this conversation. And I love hearing both sides, but we got to go. But stick around for -- for just a second for me, Ephraim and Ben.

Hang tight, because coming up next as well, Stormy Daniels is about to get a key to the city. We're going to tell you which city and why they're honoring the porn star who is suing the president.

And then, also, have you heard about Jared Kushner's former Harvard classmates? They're using their 15-year reunion to slam his work and the Trump administration. What they had to say in a series of private Facebook posts -- that and others coming up.



BALDWIN: Since he launched his campaign, President Trump has said that the free press is -- quote, unquote -- "the enemy of the American people."

But journalist Lesley Stahl is revealing he once told her why he attacks the media.


LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES": At one point, he started to attack the press. And it's just me and my boss and him. And he has a huge office. And he's attacking the press. And there were no cameras. There was nothing going on.

And I said: "You know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this? You are doing it over and over, and it's boring, and it's time to end that. You have won the nomination. And why do you keep hammering at this?"

And he said: "You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so, when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you."


BALDWIN: But this administration doesn't appear to just discredit the media. They're also blocking the media's access to information.

For the second day in a row here, the EPA blocked CNN and other news organizations from attending a national summit focused on water contaminants.

Let's go to our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, who is with me now.