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GOP Lawmakers Meeting DOJ Officials Tomorrow; Trump: Chances of U.S.-North Korea Summit are Currently 50/50. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace.

[05:59:03 SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Trump is trying to deflect attention from the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's important that we just let the truth come out on all these things.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It's inconceivable that they can brief only Republicans.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: To my knowledge, the Democrats have not requested that information.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be setting the parameters for a chat with Mueller is inappropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to have to be decided either through negotiations or a subpoena.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm optimistic. But again, this could be something that comes right to the end and doesn't happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The date is not important. Denuclearization is.

TRUMP: It would certainly be better if it were all in one. I don't think I'd want to totally commit myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen no evidence of a plan put together by this president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, May 23, 6 a.m. here in New York. And here's the starting line.

Top U.S. intel officials set to brief lawmakers about a confidential source tomorrow. This guy has been light -- a lightning Rod of controversy in the Russia investigation.

But notably absent from Thursday's invite list, Democrats. As President Trump keeps railing against the confidential source, which he calls a spy. A characterization U.S. officials dispute. But how can there be any clarity if the only people going to this meeting are those with an interest in finding proof of the alleged spying. That's going to be a very provocative question.

On another investigative front, multiple sources tell CNN the president's legal team is trying to narrow the scope of questions the president will face in his potential interview with special counsel. And off the table would be Russia-related matters that occurred after the election. That would make any questions about obstruction of justice off-limits.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, multiple reports reveal a business partner of the president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, has agreed to cooperate with the government to avoid jail time. This development could have implications for Michael Cohen, who himself is under federal investigation.

All of this as President Trump casts doubt on that upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un. Mr. Trump now says it could happen at a later date, and he's assuring the North Korean dictator that, quote, "He will be safe."

Let's start our coverage with CNN's Kaitlan Collins live at the White House. What's the latest, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, President Trump's fury was on full display yesterday as he repeated his claim without evidence that the FBI had spied on his campaign. It was a stunning moment to see the president seated next to his South Korean counterpart in the Oval Office as he railed against the Department of Justice.

And though he was more than happy to talk about that unproven claim about spying, when it came to questions of his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, he said two words: "Next question."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country. That would be one of the biggest insults that anyone's ever seen, and it would be very illegal.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump continuing to push the idea that a spy was placed into his campaign without producing any evidence to back up his claim.

U.S. officials telling CNN his assertion isn't true. Still, Mr. Trump tweeting, "He was only there to spy for political reasons and to help Crooked Hillary win, just like they did to Bernie Sanders, who got duped."

B. SANDERS: To the best of my knowledge, the FBI did its best to keep their investigation quiet during the election. So if there was a political effort to undermine any candidate -- me, Trump, anybody else -- they would have said, they would have leaked something. That is not what happened.

COLLINS: The confidential source reportedly spoke with at least three advisers to the Trump campaign in 2016 as part of the investigation into Russia's efforts to undermine the U.S. election.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Was there anything unusual about your conversations with this guy?

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: I never found anything unusual whatsoever. He's someone who is, you know, long-term, someone who had been in part of the establishment in Republican politics.

COLLINS: President Trump also repeating his unproven claim that the confidential source was paid a massive amount of money.

TRUMP: Based on what I read in the newspapers and on what you reported, some person got paid a lot of money. That's not a normal situation.

COLLINS: It's unclear what articles the president is referring to. "The Washington Post" reports that since 2012, the source had contracts with the Defense Department through a Pentagon think tank for research in the social sciences and humanities.

The Justice Department is asking the inspector general to look into the president's concerns about the source. But still, the president declining to offer support for the deputy attorney general Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have confidence in Rod Rosenstein?

TRUMP: What's your next question, please? Excuse me. I have the president of South Korea here. OK? He doesn't want to hear these questions, if you don't mind.

COLLINS: The White House announcing multiple high-ranking Justice officials will share highly-classified information about the Russia probe with two Republican congressmen tomorrow.

SCHIFF: It's inconceivable that the White House could expect that they can brief only Republicans on anything related to the Russia investigation. That can't happen.

COLLINS: The public effort to undermine the Russia investigation coming as CNN learns that the president's legal team is trying to narrow the scope of a possible interview with the special counsel to Russia-related matters that occurred before the election.

Multiple sources telling CNN Trump's lawyers are looking for a way to limit questions related to his presidency, especially questions about obstruction of justice.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: Now, Chris and Alisyn, it is important to keep in mind here that all of these accounts we are getting about the negotiations between the president's legal team and the special counsel are coming from the president's legal team. And Rudy Giuliani specifically.

So it is certainly one-sided. We do not have any comment from Mueller, who is famously tight-lipped throughout all of this. So important to keep that in mind here.

[06:05:00] But today for the president, he will be going to New York to participate in an immigration round table before hosting a fundraiser later on tonight. So far, no tweets about these alleged spies in his campaign.

CUOMO: Stay tuned. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell.

Josh, you have entered the dialogue in different capacities. We're going to deal with that this morning. Let's quickly put up the list of the people who are expected to go to this debriefing with federal officials about what they did.

So you've got, on the right side, you've got O'Callaghan, OK? He's going to be, you know, part of the A.G. contingent there. You've got the director of national intelligence. And you, of course, have the FBI director. And then you have only two politicians, Try Gowdy and Devin Nunes.

The big problem is the obvious one in the picture in front of you, John Avlon. There are no Democrats there. So what is the chance that you come out of a meeting like that if only one side is there, and they are the side with the interest in proving the allegation true and you advance understanding? How do you do that if you only have one side?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You probably don't. And that's probably the tell that that isn't the aim of it.

Look, Trey Gowdy is actually a straight shooter in this context. He's retired from Congress. He's been less likely to carry water for the Trump administration. Devin Nunes, however, seems to think that's his job as chair of the House Intel Committee. If you want to do this, which is an unprecedented action itself, you'd probably try to make it bipartisan.

But this is not -- this is a shot against the idea of independence at the Justice Department. And the people attending this meeting is just a confirmation of that concern.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Josh, put aside the partisanship for one second. Do you have any problem, former FBI agent, with congressional investigators looking at what this informant, this confidential informant, who it was and what he was doing. JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So there are a lot of

challenges here, and let's look at what congressional oversight is supposed to mean. I mean, if you look back in the 1970s when these committees were established, they were established because there were gross abuses of power by the intelligence agencies.

So they needed a body to coordinate, to oversee them, to ensure that they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. That long- involved looking at operations and having a pulse check, ensuring they were aware of what was going on.

But there was -- there's long been this norm that sources and methods were off the table. Because these intelligence agencies, as they're out there running these human informants, that you know, they're building these relationships based on trust, the informants likely will not provide information to the government if their information is not kept confidential.

And so now we're kind of in a new phase, where you have lawmakers that are, you know, destroying that norm and crossing that line in actually asking for this type of information. So I'm very troubled by this.

I think that what we're going to see is possibly a showdown, because I don't suspect that these two members of Congress are going to come out, feeling you know, completely, you know, satisfied with what they -- they're briefed on. They're always going to want more. And so it will be up to, you know, the FBI director, to the DNI, the deputy attorney general to hold the line and ensure that they don't provide information that's inappropriate.

CUOMO: All they need to do is come out of the meeting saying, "We have concerns after what we've learned." And that's it. The conspiracies are off to the races.

CAMPBELL: That's right.

CUOMO: Now, some of the lawmakers who are looking into this in a more macro sense are saying, "We have exactly what you're talking about, Josh Campbell. We have gross abuses of power. All of these people removed all of these questions about how the FBI conducted its business into the political campaign. And we have to have a new special counsel. We can't trust anybody to investigate it.

One person in this parade is Lee Zeldin, Republican congressman from Suffolk County here in New York. He had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: A myriad of DOJ and FBI personnel have been fired, or demoted or have been resigned -- or have resigned, including FBI Director Comey, Deputy Director McCabe, chief of staff to the director James Rybicki, FBI general counsel James Baker, FBI agent Strzok, FBI counsel Page, FBI special agent Josh Campbell, DOJ senior official Orr, FBI assistant director Michael Kortan and assistant attorney general Peter Kadzik.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Josh Campbell, that's you. Were you fired or removed from office?

CAMPBELL: I wasn't, and what a great day for my family. You know, if you look at the reason why I left the FBI, I left a career that I loved, working as a special agent in the FBI, so that I could step out and speak out against this nonsense.

And if you look at what's going on here, the problem -- the challenge of dealing with conspiracy theories is that you never win by calling them for what they are. No one in the history of mankind ever persuaded a wingnut by calling them a wingnut. So you have to look at what we're dealing with here.

Either, one, these people aren't playing with a full deck; or, two, they're running for, you know, cover for a White House that is in survival mode. And so they will do absolutely anything, to include attacking a former staff career FBI agent that serves their purposes. Or, three, they genuinely believe this nonsense. And because that third thing might be true, you have to investigate. We have to have confidence in American law enforcement.

But with that said, you can't have conflicted parties doing the investigation. It has to be independent. So to have people like Devin Nunes and, you know, this parade of people that were standing there on the dias yesterday, you know, calling for this investigation, they're obviously conflicted. So they are not the ones to be doing this investigation.

[06:10:13] CAMEROTA: Anything you wanted to add?

AVLON: Yes. I mean, other than, you know, I appreciate the wingnut reference. Look, this -- Lee Zeldin getting up here and Republicans falling into line, attacking law enforcement, I don't think you can, you know, appreciate how bad it's going to be for them in the long run. Because the Republicans have been the party of law and order. They've always stood up for members of law enforcement.

And now they're demonizing individuals in law enforcement, buying into the Trump Organization's self-interest in investigating the investigators strategy.

And that undercuts a lot of their credibility as a core part of their identity as a party, and it's a really low moment. And members of Congress are running to that ledge. They're not walking, they're running. Solely out of fealty to this particular president. That's going to be a decision they regret at the end of it.

What is the chance that the Mueller team, Josh Campbell, agrees to limit the scope of questioning of the president of the United States to Russia events that happened before the date of the election? Because that would mean taking any questions about obstruction of justice off the table.

CAMPBELL: Well, look. I don't foresee that actually happening, that Bob Mueller and his team agree to limit the scope of what they're -- what they're going to ask. Because that's the entire nature of the inquiry, is to get the heart and soul, the motive of why certain actions took place.

And an important, you know, aspect of that is to look into, you know, the removal of the FBI record, for example, someone for whom I worked, and try to get to that motive. Were you, you know, firing this person because he was leading the charge, and you were concerned with what he was doing? Or was it all these other reasons that you've given since then?

And so to say that we're going to stop at election day, I think, is you know, not something that Mueller is going to do. And as a former FBI agent, I have to tell you that, you know, I've seen nothing so far to indicate that the president personally colluded with Russia. Right? I mean, there are people in the campaign. Obviously, that's another story.

But I can tell you from doing investigations, any time I sat in front of a subject, conducting an interview or an interrogation, and they said, "I don't want to talk about this," that only made me want to ask more questions about that.

CAMEROTA: Well, there you have it. Therein lies the rub, because you said the question of obstruction is the heart and soul of it. That's not what the campaign or Trump administration said. They think it's the collusion, which is what the investigation was originally set up for. So they want it just limited to questions about collusion on the campaign, which would end at election day.

AVLON: Right. They are trying, basically, to negotiate this down to something manageable, because they know the risk; and the initial focus, you know, if Mueller breaks this into reports, is obstruction. By ending on election day, they're trying to negotiate their way to something safer for their client, the president of the United States.

There's no reason to think that Mueller is going to agree to that. Both sides have leverage. But at the end of the day, Mueller as the investigator isn't going to agree to something that undercuts his case, solely because it's in the self-interest of, you know, Rudy's client, the president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I guess. Unless he just really wants questions answered by the president about the collusion, and that he's going to make that deal because he wants those questions answered.

AVLON: I -- you know, I'm sure they want that deal on the White House side. It's unclear whether they'd take that deal on the --

CUOMO: How he can justify to Rosenstein in this memo that what he was supposed to investigate he didn't, just to accommodate getting some involvement by the president. That's a trick, but we'll have to see where it comes out.

Gentlemen, let's leave it there. Let's leave it there. We'll talk about this a lot more. Thank you very much, and I'm glad we gave you the opportunity to clear your own name this morning. Facts matter.

Now, this is obviously all politicized and politically charged. You see that just by the list of people who are going into this meeting. So what do the Democrats think about this? What is their plan going forward? What is their battle message going into the midterms?

We're going to get those questions answered for you tonight. We have a live special CNN town hall with the woman on your screen, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 9 p.m. And once again, the best questions will come from you.

CAMEROTA: All right. So will the North Korea summit happen or not? President Trump has doubts. We discuss why next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[06:17:54] TRUMP: There's a chance that it will work out. There's a chance, there's a very substantial chance that it won't work out. I don't want to waste a lot of time. And he doesn't want to waste a lot of time. So there's a very substantial chance it won't work out, and that's OK. That doesn't mean it won't work out over a period of time. But it may not work out for June 12.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. That was President Trump suggesting the summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un may not happen on June 12 as had been planned. The growing doubts surrounding the meeting stem from heated rhetoric coming from the regime.

So let's get to CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger.

David, we talked to you yesterday about this. How are you feeling today on whether or not this is going to be happening on June 12?

SANGER: Well, about like I've been feeling on it all week, Alisyn. Which is that everything the president said underscores the risk of doing this in the order in which they're doing it, which has been that they are attempting to have the president meet first with Kim Jong-un and then work out the details later.

And this is a White House that isn't used to conducting this kind of negotiation. Kim Jong-un isn't used to conducting this kind of negotiation. And this is what happens when you get into the situation where you're walking the president into an unpredictable situation in which it's not clear that he would emerge with the kind of agreement that he's promised.

And let's remember what the promise was. First, he said he would solve this problem. Second, he would get complete verifiable, irreversible disarmament. That's a pretty tall order. And he can't walk away with just vague assurances the North Koreans have given before. CUOMO: Well, look, you know, if there's one thing he's gifted at, the president of the United States, it's the sell. Right? And Aaron David Miller, who along with David Sanger, is somebody people should be following along on social media for an understanding of this, John Avlon, he refers to the ratio and diplomacy of show versus go.

And here, the administration had opted for heavy show up front. Have the president go, even though we don't have a lot of things negotiated yet, just to show progress. But given that that's the strategy, would you say well-played by the Trump administration? If their message -- if they're saber rattling in the regime? Then back off and say, "Fine. You don't want to do this the right way, we don't do it. We will see what happens in the future." Is that the right posture?

[06:20:14] AVLON: I think Donald Trump is playing poker in public on this one. He's saying, "Look, you guys are -- you think I want this -- this summit too much? Actually, you know, this may not happen at all. What does that do to your position?

He called out Xi in China in the statement yesterday, as well, which is a significant development and interesting.

Look, the other thing that's going on is perhaps a lack of confidence behind the scenes that the president is really ready, as David said, to knock this one out of the park. And the key question of whether President Moon of South Korea oversold North Korea's commitment to denuclearize.

But I think this was really a brushback pitch by the president, saying, "Look, you thought I'm deeply invested in this happening no matter what? Think again."

CAMEROTA: So David, one of -- some of the reporting is that one of the problems for Kim Jong-un is that he worries about leaving the country, worries that there will be a coup in his absence. And President Trump, we think, alluded to that yesterday, though we weren't exactly clear what he was referring to. Here is President Trump guaranteeing safety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will guarantee his safety. And we've talked about that from the beginning. He will be safe. He will be happy. His country will be rich. His country will be hard-working and very prosperous. They're very great people.

(NE VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Maybe he meant guarantee the safety if they were in Singapore. But how can President Trump guarantee there won't be a coup?

SANGER: You know, I didn't read that, Alisyn, as focusing on the coup attempt. And so far, we haven't heard much specific objection or potential rising up against Kim after he consolidated his power his first year or so in. What I think the president was referring to was that the North Koreans

want a security guarantee from the United States that, if they gave up their nuclear weapons, the U.S. would never attack them. The U.S. wouldn't do what they've done to Gadhafi. That was last week's discussion about Libya and the Libya model. That the U.S. wouldn't threaten them with American nuclear weapons.

And I'm not really quite sure how you get to that. Because the difference between the North Korean nuclear weapons, at least the ones they have now, and American nuclear weapons is the U.S. can strike North Korea from Nebraska or South Dakota. So I don't know what an assurance from the president means that the United States would never use its weapons against North Korea.

And Kim, of course, is going to be looking for a few things himself. He's going to be looking for pulling American troops out of the Korean Peninsula. Maybe not immediately but over time. He's going to be looking for an end to these military exercises. And he's going to be looking for economic assurances that can't be easily reversed. So he has to look at what happened with Iran this week and think, "Well, what happens if the next president steps in and says this agreement that President Trump reached with the North Koreans wasn't such a great idea."

CUOMO: I mean, also, we have to start examining this through the current filter, right? We're used to listening to diplomats talk about this careful language, measured. You really never know.

Both of the men involved in this -- well, one is a despot and the other one is a duly-elected president of the United States -- they use extreme language. They exaggerate. There is an unpredictability that makes everything kind of hard to scrutinize.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., referred to the unpredictability that she sees as an asset. But it was a little bit of a tortured explanation. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: The truth is I would always use the unpredictability of President Trump to help me get the sanctions through. So I would say, "We have to cut off the laborers. You know, we have to do this."

And they'd say, "No, no, no, we can't do that."

And I would say, "OK, but I can't promise you that President Trump won't use the military."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Love this. This is the secrets of partisan Captain Chaos by Nikki Haley, her upcoming novel.

It's really revealing of how, I think, members of the administration try to deal with the president's unpredictability and to use it to their advantage. So, you know, that can be a negotiated strike. And I think Trump thinks it very much is in these brinksmanship debates with North Korea.

There's a down side. But good for Nikki Haley, I think, for showing how she's trying to use it to her and the United States' advantage.

CAMEROTA: David Sanger, John Avlon, thank you both very much.

OK. Now to this. She is bidding to become the first black female governor in the United States. And Stacey Abrams has already made history last night in Georgia. We have all the details next.

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[06:29:04] CAMEROTA: A Georgia Democrat makes history. Stacey Abrams won the gubernatorial primary Tuesday, becoming the first black woman to be a major party nominee for gvernor in the United States. Her Republican opponent will be determined by a July run-off.

Georgia has not elected a Democratic governor since 1998. Stacey Abrams will join us live on NEW DAY in the next hour.

Another primary result of note: Kentucky voters chose former Marine fighter pilot and political newcomer Amy McGrath over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in the Democratic primary for a key House seat.

CUOMO: Interesting to see this new wave of veterans making such an impact on politics.

President Trump apparently crafting a plan to offer Americans another round of tax cuts, just in time to help Republicans before the midterms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're going to be submitting additional tax cuts sometime prior to November. It's going to be something very special. You see what it's done for the country. It's going to be something very, very special.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: That's going to be a tough sell with his own party, because we don't see what it's done for the country, except for the deficit spending that part of his party hates.