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Lawmakers to Meet with DOJ; Doubt on June Summit; Health Warning for U.S. Citizens in China; Toxic Air Emissions Intensify for Hawaii; Trump and Political Norms. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very special. You see what it's done for the country. It's going to be something very, very special.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

But speaking at that dinner in Washington last night, the president didn't offer any details other than the hope that it's going to be great and it will help voters right before they hit the polls in November for the midterms.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Pulitzer Prize Winning novelist Philip Roth has died. He's considered one of the great American writers of the 20th century. He authored more than two dozen novels and short stories, including "American Pastoral," which won him the Pulitzer, "Goodbye Columbus" and "Portnoy's Complaint." Philip Roth was 85 years old.

CUOMO: Should two GOP congressman have access to classified Russia documents and have no Democrats there? We're going to discuss with General Michael Hayden, next.


CUOMO: If you are an independent thinking person, you just have to shake your head at the potential of what's about to happen. House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy are going to meet with the FBI and Justice Department officials tomorrow and they're going to look through documents that relate to this confidential source. No Democrats were invited to the meeting. How are they going to come out of these with any kind of consensus on this?

[06:35:14] Let's bring in the former director of the CIA and the NSA, retired General Michael Hayden, a CNN national security analyst, and author of the new book that is really a must read, "The Assault on Intelligence in an Age of Lies."

General, good to see you.


CUOMO: Help me understand, please, because I don't want to hyper politicize this more than has already been done. But if the aim is to go with officials who arguably should or should not be sharing this information and to get some sense of whether the naked allegations of President Trump, about being spied on have any there there, don't you have to have bipartisan company?

HAYDEN: You do. And there's something normal about this, Chris, and something very not normal. The law under which this is taking place and the fact that I can almost quote it verbatim to you tells you how often we have to refer to it in the intelligence business is, consistent with the protection of sources and methods, Congress shall be kept fully and currently informed of all significant intelligence activities. So you see the tension built directly into the law. Protection and informing.

In this case, Chris, my instincts are with the original White House instinct, which was to side with the FBI and the Department of Justice and not reveal this information because of the protection of sources and methods. And you make the point, this isn't coming from the committee, it's coming from a group of Republicans on the committees.

And then, frankly, Chris, the real tie-breaker for me, this request is not coming from the other chamber. The Senate has shown absolutely no interest in this. And so I just chalk this up as being hyper partisanship and political. And I think we've made the wrong decision by bringing the members of Congress, the Republicans, into the circle here.

CUOMO: So now I want your help on understanding this latest clue of where the president is coming from on this. A tweet that seems to suggest that this confidential source was paid more for this than other things. If the person placed very early into my campaign wasn't a spy, then why did he get such seemingly massive amounts of money for services rendered many times higher than normal? Follow the money. He was in the early stages of the campaign. Never said any conclusion. They just wanted to help Hillary.

I don't know what he's talking about. The only facts that we have is that this guy was a contractor and -- on Russia, maybe China, he received independent contractor service contracts. But what do we know about what he was paid for this work that was more than anything he's ever been paid before?

HAYDEN: Absolutely nothing. And so I've got no evidence trail on which to rely, to confirm or deny what the president -- what the president said.

And, Chris, remember, this began with a tweet with the president making the suggestion, the claim, the acquisition that this was done for political purposes on the part of the Obama administration. And, of course, there's absolutely no evidence of that either. And so this may be just a case of throwing some things against the wall and seeing what sticks. CUOMO: All right, another topic for you, North Korea. The regime in

North Korea is getting antsy, doing what it does best, which is injecting uncertainty into a situation. The president is playing it cool right now saying, look, they don't want to have the summit, we won't have the summit. I don't need to have the summit. I want to have the summit. Do you agree with the posturing on the side of the United States?

HAYDEN: I do. I think the president's response in that regard yesterday was spot-on. We may have it in June. We may have it later. We'll see. Because you don't want to appear to be the supplicant. You don't want to appear to be the most anxious party to have this meeting, otherwise you concede advantage to the other side. So I think we are handling this quite well now. Although as David Sanger pointed out to you a few minutes ago, that's a product about rushing into this at the head of state level and agreeing to the meeting with absolutely no preparation done beforehand.

CUOMO: Well, but there is an opportunity here for a second bite at the apple, right? Yes, there --


CUOMO: We went heavy on the hype here. As Aaron David Miller talks about, the show to go ratio. This was all show. We're going to have a big summit. I'm going to get it down. I'm better than everybody else.

OK, that may not pan out. But now is an opportunity to do the work of hammering out some kind of deal points that would then culminate, conclude with some kind of summit. Do you think that's the path the U.S. will take now?

HAYDEN: It appears to be the path based upon precisely what the president said yesterday. I compliment him on showing patience. You know, the president is prone to action. And here was a point yesterday where he was temporizing and being quite patient. I think that's exactly the right position.

[06:40:12] CUOMO: General Michael Hayden, thank you very much for helping us understand some very important topics, as always.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris, we have some breaking news right now. The State Department is issuing a health alert to U.S. citizens in China after an American government employee complained of unusual symptoms and was diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury.

Let's get right to CNN's Matt Rivers. He is live in Beijing.

What's this about, Matt?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, this is kind of a strange situation here. All American citizens that are signed up with the U.S. embassy in China got an alert within the last couple of hours talking about some of those things that you just mentioned. Basically the government is saying that an employee, a U.S. government employee assigned to a city called Guangzhou, it's a massive city in southern China. That person reported hearing subtle and vague, but abnormal sensations of sound and pressure, which is very strange. That employee then gets sent back to the United States. And about five days ago, that employee was diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury.

Now, the U.S. government is not saying what caused this. They're not accusing anyone at this point. They have alerted the Chinese government that the Chinese government is investigating. They're taking appropriate measures. The U.S. government sending this out as a precaution.

But the reason why we paid attention to this is because there was something relatively similar, diplomats in Cuba, you'll remember not long ago, several dozen -- a couple dozen diplomats and family members actually had similar symptoms to this, as well as similar diagnoses of mild traumatic brain injury. And that's something that the U.S. government has looked at the Cuban government as being involved in, in some way.

Now, that is not a connection that is being made here at this point. The U.S. government has made absolutely no connection, at least publicly, between what's happening in China and what happened in Cuba. But, still, there are some similarities here that I think the U.S. government is going to need to look into.

CUOMO: And there we had multiple people. Here, so far, we have just one. But the idea of mild traumatic brain injury is unsettling at the least.

Thank you for the reporting. We know you'll give us the latest developments. Thank you.

All right, so we've been covering the volcano threat in Hawaii because it's real. I know that these things -- you send your little bit of fatigue. No fatigue. It's far from over. In fact, it seems to be getting worse. A dire situation where people could be trapped, ahead.


[06:46:27] CAMEROTA: Hawaiian officials are assuring residents on the big island that they are preparing for a long haul here. Just look at these live pictures. More -- it's just -- they're just breathtaking and dramatic and they haven't ceased. So more breathing masks will be handed out today and scientists say the volcanic gas emissions from these erupting fissures have now tripled and those put a high concentration of sulfur dioxide into the air.

Meteorologist Chad Myers has more.

Chad, I mean, how long is this going to last?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It could be months, honestly. It could be months. That's -- it's been going on since 1983. So this is just another vent coming out from the same east rift we've been talking about for a long time.

This update is brought to you by Purina, your pet, our passion.

So let's get to Google Earth. And I'm going to take you to what we're seeing here. From the vent to Honolulu, 220 miles. So along way. All the way to Kauai (ph), 320 miles.

But let's focus on the big island, because this is what's erupting. Still Kilauea. Pu'u O'o that erupted in 1983, but the same rift all the way down the island chain.

Now, as we zoom in, you can actually see old lava shields from the same rift. But people don't live here. National park. The problem is the rift is now breaking here, where people do live. And so the lava is getting all the way down into the ocean. We talked about the laze. We are still seeing the sulfur dioxide here through the Leilani Estates and obviously that geothermal plat we've been talking about, slightly uphill from the fissure right now, but -- but if it builds enough of a mountain, the lava could actually go back toward the geothermal plant. That's what we're worried about. It is under control. All of the wells are capped. We'll wait for that to happen. So far all of that lava is going downhill towards the ocean, not uphill, obviously, because of the path of least resistance is that way.


CUOMO: I mean, look, the daunting thing, other than it looking like hell on earth, is that they can do nothing to control the movement of all of the different factors that are going on. So those people are sitting helpless watching and waiting. That's why we have to pay attention.

Chad, thank you very much.

All right, there's a new op-ed in "The Washington Post" and it argues that President Trump is violating political norms at a rate that could have serious consequences. There's a lot of speculation in that. Let's put some meat on the bones and talk to the columnists about it, next.


[06:53:12] CAMEROTA: So, what is the upshot of President Trump trying to cast so much doubt on our American institutions, like law enforcement, the press, separations of powers. In a new op-ed for "The Washington Post," CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot says that in just the last week alone, President Trump has violated multiple political norms and it's making us numb.

Max Boot joins us now.

Max, great to have you here.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Great to be here. CAMEROTA: Let's tick fairly quickly through the norms that you say

have been violated in just the past week and have you expound on them a bit.

Number one, revealing intelligence sources. That's generally considered bad. And just, as we know, tomorrow -- I mean he has had an assist from Congressman Devin Nunes, OK -

BOOT: Right, his henchmen, yes.

CAMEROTA: Who got the FBI to agree to reveal to him one of their confidential sources. What do you see?

BOOT: I mean this is outrageous. I mean as FBI Director Chris Wray said, the day that we can't protect -- we can't protect confidential sources is the day that the American people start being less safe. And what you're seeing is that people like Devin Nunes and Donald Trump care much more about the security of Donald Trump than they do about the security of the American people.

CAMEROTA: Next, politically motivated prosecutions. I mean this started with lock her up, lock her up, about his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and it has continued. What's happening this week?

BOOT: Well, this week Donald Trump is trotting out that tried and true authoritarian tactic of investigate the investigators. He is trying to impede the investigation of his campaign by trying to launch an arm of the justice investigation of the FBI. I mean this is outrageous.

CAMEROTA: Third political norm, mixing private and government business. This is because he didn't divest or put into a blind trust his Trump empire. And so there are all sorts of things that crop up that appear to be benefiting him financially. The latest was the whole ZTE thing with China where there's seemed to be a nexus between something he was invested in, in Indonesia, and what China wanted. What do you think?

[06:55:09] BOOT: That's right. I mean it was very suspicious to say the least. The fact that you had a Chinese bank providing a $500 million loan to a Trump organization project in Indonesia. And within days, Donald Trump mysteriously reversed his position on ZTE and went from sanctioning it to saying we're going to take the sanctions off.

CAMEROTA: Foreign interference in elections. This one rings a bell. But this week it wasn't about Russia. We found out that there were other countries who had meetings at Trump Tower.

BOOT: So many meetings. So many countries. And we learned just recently that there were meetings at the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. This is in addition to the 72 contacts that we know about between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

CAMEROTA: Undermining the First Amendment. Look, he's done all sorts of things like say that he might, you know, increase laws against the press. Obviously he denigrates the press all the time. What's happened this week? BOOT: Well, just recently, last week we learned that Donald Trump

tried to pressure the postmaster general into doubling the shipping rates for Amazon. Now, why does he want to double the shipping rates for Amazon? Because he is mad at "The Washington Post." And Jeff Bezos, the owner of "The Washington Post," also happens to be the CEO of Amazon. And this, to me, is one of the biggest outrages of all and it has not gotten the attention that it deserves because this looks to me like an all assault on the First Amendment.

CAMEROTA: And that leads us to your overarching point, why isn't all of this getting more attention?

BOOT: Well, that's a -- that's a great question. And I kind of scratch my head about that. I think on the one hand you have Republicans who either approve of Donald Trump's conduct or pretend not to notice it because they say, oh, the economy's going great so we don't want to notice the fact that there's this assault on the rule of law.

And then, on the other hand, you have Democrats who are so inert to it by now they're just used to it. And there's so many outrages it's hard to get upset about each and every single one. And the fact that you just had these five major norms violated in the last week makes it very difficult to focus on the specifics of any one particular case.

CAMEROTA: I hear people say this all the time, there's information overload.

BOOT: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: So, Americans, at some point you do have to just turn away. I mean it's just kind of overwhelming.

BOOT: Right.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that people are becoming numb to this?

BOOT: Yes. Absolutely. And I think that's actually part of President Trump's strategy because, you know, he counters all of this scandal mongering, all this bad publicity by throwing out these crazy conspiracy theories about the deep state conspiring against him. There's just so much information out there. He's -- he created new crisis every single day, like he's created a crisis by ordering the Justice Department to investigate the investigators in his particular case. And people are just overwhelmed. They can't take it all in. And they basically say, well, we don't know what's going on. We don't know what to believe. And that's exactly what he wants. And this is kind of out of the classic dictatorial playbook. Not to say he's a dictator, but he is imitating some of their tactics. And this is how he gains power.

CAMEROTA: Look, in our defense, we do cover this every day.

BOOT: Absolutely. Right. No, of course.

CAMEROTA: I mean every single one of these, we give all sorts of air time to. BOOT: Of course.

CAMEROTA: We have all sorts of experts on. But what's the solution if people just turn away and are numb? How can -- how is it possible to pierce people's consciousness with information?

BOOT: I think it's very hard. But I think the ultimate solution has to be in the political realm. And if people are fed up with this, they need to make their outrage felt in November. And, you know, I say this as somebody who was a life-long Republican until Donald Trump's election. But I think it's imperative to vote for Democrats in November, no matter what you think of them on the policy specifics. But you've got to vote for Democrats to get some balance into the system, to get some checks and balances so that you will have a Congress that is not serving as an enabler of Donald Trump's obstruction of justice but is, in fact, holding him to account.

CAMEROTA: Max Boot, great to talk to you. Thank you very much for breaking down your op-ed.

BOOT: Great to be here. Thanks.

CAMEROTA: Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they had spice in my campaign for political purposes, that would be unprecedented.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the president trying to break into the safe that holds evidence in the case against him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His base loves this. His base believes him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The department needs to stand up to this president and insist on doing its work in a bipartisan way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president's legal team is trying to narrow the scope of any potential interview.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a game of constitutional chicken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think Mueller is going to blink.

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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is critical for us to be very firm on what exactly we mean by denuclearization.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A summit that is pursued without a strategy is a summit not worth attending.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're continue to lay the foundation. I'm confident we'll get there. (END VIDEO CLIP)

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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day.

[07:00:01] Top U.S. intel officials are set to brief lawmakers tomorrow about that confidential source who has become a lightning rod for controversy in the Russia investigation. Notably absent from the invite list are any Democrats.