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Trump Repeats Unproven Claims about 'Spy' in His Campaign; House Republicans Renew Push for Second Special Counse; Interview With Rep. Jim Jordan. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Top U.S. intel officials are set to brief lawmakers tomorrow about that confidential source who has become the lightning Rod for controversy in the Russia investigation. Notably absent from the invite list are any Democrats, as President Trump keeps railing against this source, whom he calls a spy. That's a characterization that U.S. officials dispute.

[07:00:25] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: On another investigative front, multiple sources tell CNN the president's legal team is trying to narrow the scope of questions the president would face in any potential interview with the special counsel. The president's team wants to say that the only questions that can be asked are about matters that happened before the election. That would make any questions about obstruction of justice off-limits.

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

Kaitlan, you know, there's been a lot of pushback from sources at the White House saying, "Hey, the president is being conditional about the spying. He's not saying it definitely did happen."

In a tweet that he just put out a few minutes ago he says, "Ending up getting caught" -- talking about the deep state, which is also known as our law enforcement -- "a major spy scandal, the likes of which this country may never have seen before." That's an accusation. It's not conditional. What else do you know?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right there, Chris. That important line, "the likes of which this country may have never seen before." We often see the president speak in terms like this, where he'd make these outrageous claims or statements without being able to back them up with any proof.

Of course, what comes to mind is when he said that President Barack Obama had wiretapped him. These claims that he makes, they make them in a vague enough manner to where he can one day get around them and say that's not what he was saying. He was simply suggesting that it could have happened. And it certainly could be the case here.

We are seeing the president's fury over this continue to grow. We saw it yesterday in a very stunning moment in the Oval Office as he sat there next to the South Korean president, the president railing against the Justice Department, repeating this claim that the FBI spied on this campaign, even though he offered no evidence to back up that claim.

But one thing the president didn't want to talk about there in the Oval Office was whether or not he has confidence in the deputy attorney general.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 has 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."

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), MASSACHUSETTS: 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'd 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 that multiple high-ranking Justice Department officials will share highly-classified information about the Russia probe with two Republican congressmen tomorrow.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: 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.

[07:05:02] 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.


COLLINS: So this morning the president now tweeting several times about his allegation, again, that he was being spied on, that his campaign was spied on by the FBI. Even in one tweet quoting a FOX News headline and then going on to say that James Clapper, of course, the former director of national intelligence, who the president said is the world's dumbest former intelligence head who has the problem of lying a lot, used the word "spy" when describing the illegal activities.

Now Chris and Alisyn, I have to point out what James Clapper actually said yesterday when he was on "The View," he was asked if the FBI, point blank, had spied on the president's campaign. He said, "No, they were not." He said, quote, "They were spying, a term I don't particularly like, on what the Russians were doing."

So the president there attempting to twist James Clapper's words to fit what he believes happened here, even though multiple U.S. officials have told CNN that the president's campaign was not spied on by the FBI.

CAMEROTA: OK. Kaitlan, thank you very much for all of that, those developments that are happening as we speak. So let's bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN legal analyst Anne Milgram.

Anne, great to have you here. So the president has cranked Twitter up into overdrive this morning, and he seems to really be fixated and, of course, trying to gin his supporters up about there was a spying scandal.

This is also called standard operating procedure.

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Completely. CAMEROTA: When the FBI thinks that there is a criminal enterprise happening, guess what? They get sources so they can find out if there was a criminal enterprise. So how is he connecting these dots?

MILGRAM: So that's right. Every day the U.S. government is putting people out to gather information. Particularly if they think a foreign government might be trying to infiltrate the United States. And here you have a political campaign. That candidate can become, and did become, the president of the United States.

So what would be unprecedented would be if the U.S. government hadn't done this, hadn't taken steps just to gather information. And so this strikes me as part of an overall political effort by the president just to try to discredit the Russia investigation where, for anyone in law enforcement, there's nothing unusual here about what we've seen being done.

CUOMO: Well, look, we just had his biggest admission to date of what his real intention is here in a tweet. Look how things have turned around on the criminal deep state. All right. What does that tell you?

One, media perception is reality for Donald Trump. If there are bad stories going out there, that's as good as truth.

Criminal deep state. He's referring to our Department of Justice. That's what he's calling the stewardship that he has over this. He's referring to these people as criminal deep state. "They go after phony collusion with Russia," which nobody involved in the intelligence community believes that these questions are phony. "A made-up scam" -- I don't know what he's talking about. "And end up getting caught in a major spy scandal." So much for this being conditional. So much for him just asking questions. "The likes of which this country may never have seen before."


CUOMO: Where's the "they"?

CAMEROTA: I said "may." He --

CUOMO: "May have never seen before."

CAMEROTA: -- has these conditional things in, but he's not committed to it.

CUOMO: But there's really only one conditional. He says there was a spy scandal, but it may be the worst ever.


CUOMO: What goes around, comes around. This is who he is. This is his objective: "Spread the stink. Get the heat off me. Put it on someone else. Consequences be damned."

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I think, you know, the bigger goal here for the president is to discredit the larger Mueller investigation and to zero in on this piece of it that probably doesn't come to anything at the end of the day. Maybe that explains why Rosenstein and others have agreed to share this information, which I think is completely inappropriate for them to do so.

I think a couple of things. One, we have to remember something very simple. We know from our intelligence services that Russia attempted to meddle in the election in 2016. You want your law enforcement to try to run that down, to see if one of the campaigns might be infiltrated, that there might be inappropriate meddling, collusion going on, impacts or influence on the candidate.

It seems to me that that's an obvious and appropriate thing for law enforcement to do. At the time that that was happening, the administration went soft on this whole issue of striking back against the Russians.

And the FBI didn't leak a word about the fact that they were investigating Trump at the same time that they were putting out all of this information about the e-mail probe about Hillary Clinton.

So there was no political hatchet job going on here. And that's just clear.

So you can recognize what this is, which is the president, you know, speaking like a fringe candidate somewhere, except he's president of the United States, attacking the institutions of our government.

And I think for people who support the president, who think he ought to get his due, who think the media piles on, you've got to have your moment of reckoning on this stuff, and you've got to be honest with yourself about the fact that the president is doing something that's completely inappropriate here. You've got to own it, even if you believe all those other things. Because this makes absolutely no sense. There is no deep state. I hate to break it to you. The people who are running the Justice Department and the FBI are his folks.

[07:10:16] And by the way, Rod Rosenstein, who -- you know, who he doesn't like, has also supported him in other areas by criticizing Jim Comey. So you've got to stop the madness here and focus on what's in front of us.

CAMEROTA: If there was a deep state preventing his election, he might not be president right now. I mean, the whole irony is that he won. So whatever he -- his theory that the deep state is so powerful. Obviously not.

But let's talk about what they are doing tomorrow. The Department of Justice is sort of, you know, opening their files to show Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, two congressmen on House Intel and Oversight who the informant is. And what do you think of that?

MILGRAM: It's a terrible idea. I mean, it's actually almost stunning in the fact that they would do this for a number of reasons. First of all, there is no credible case that's been put forward that

the intelligence -- the intelligence person in London was doing anything inappropriate. So there's no -- there's no -- these are baseless allegations at this point. And just because you say it doesn't make it true. Right? So Donald Trump alleging something bad happened doesn't make it true. So there's really no basis for this.

Second of all, we never reveal sources. I mean, this is one of the most important things. These people are out there every day on behalf of the United States government, and we don't reveal them.

And finally, you are revealing it to people who we already know have shared what we would argue is classified information or who have not been the most --

CAMEROTA: At least Devin Nunes.

MILGRAM: Yes, exactly. And so to me, and what's the point of sharing it with them? I mean, other than politics right now. I mean, you're not going to undo anything that was done. And any review of this could be done through, whether you agree with it or not, this inspector general process. It's hard for me to see, if you were even trying to balance giving over this information, there's no - there's no argument in favor of it in my view.

CUOMO: One step sideways and then one step forward. The sideways is some of you out there who are Trump supporters believe him when he says that we're part of the problem. We know who the confidential source is. We're not saying the name. We're not putting it out there, because we don't see any value in that.

We knew what the allegations were in the dossier, the most salacious ones. We didn't put them out there. So there is selectivity going on here. It's just unusual for us to have to protect information, you know, instead of the government doing it when it's their purview.

Now, here's the catch on what's going to happen tomorrow, David. There is a good chance that, when the government shares this information with these two Republican lawmakers, they're going to see things there that they like and that they don't like. And I mean that in cynical terms in terms of forwarding their narrative.

But we're only going to get the reckoning of people who have an interest in advancing the allegations of spying. Why would they set themselves up to have whatever they come out there with be unsatisfying to at least half of Congress and a majority of the country?

GREGORY: Because clearly, they don't care. They don't care that it's seen as a fair process. They don't care about what precedents they might precedents they might be setting here. You know, because all is fair in love and partisan warfare.

And that's -- and that's how they view this. And that's, you know, what's unfortunate about it. And I don't know what remedies that. And I'm surprised that a guy like Trey Gowdy, who's been on the program recently talking about his book, about reaching across the aisle and forming friendships in Congress and, by the way, who's a former assistant U.S. attorney in South Carolina, would go along with this and would be a party to the notion of kind of trashing the Justice Department in this kind of way.

But I think we have to keep one thing in mind. This is a side show. The president has amplified this to make us think that this is something critically important. It is not. The response to it is really important. But let's remember, the investigative game in town is the Mueller investigation. There is bipartisan support for that because of his reputation, because of how he's proceeding. That's going to be the outcome that matters here.

CAMEROTA: OK. Anne Milgram, David Gregory, thank you both very much for your expertise.

CUOMO: The president just tweeted again: "Spygate could be one of the biggest political scandals in history."

CAMEROTA: It has a name.

CUOMO: He has offered no proof that there was a spy. The facts that have come out show that it was not an implanted source or an informant in the campaign. He's referred to the person getting paid too much money. He has offered no proof that this source was offered money that was somehow not commensurate with what they did or that they were paid anything to do what they did during the campaign. Where are the facts?

All right. Some Republican lawmakers are calling for a second special counsel. Like that's what is needed. More of all of this. One of those GOP lawmakers, Congressman Jim Jordan, he has gusto and a desire to make the case to you. He will get that opportunity next.


[07:19:01] CUOMO: All right. Got to keep checking Twitter. So far, no new tweet in the last seven minutes. But we do know this. The context of why we're seeing the president kind of gin up into high gear. This notion that there is a nefarious group of officials that are out to spy on you and do you harm.

The context is we now have more than a dozen House Republicans calling for the appointment of a second special counsel. Why? To take a closer look at alleged abuses carried out by the FBI in its investigation into the Trump campaign and Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. One of the people making the case is House Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Jim, always good to see you. And I need your help this morning.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: All right. I'll try to provide some help here this morning, Chris.

CUOMO: Always a plus. So let's use the president's tweets as a spine for the discussion, and you answer in context any way you want. JORDAN: All right.

CUOMO: The president is now calling the use of this confidential source, who apparently contacted people in the campaign or related to, satellites of the campaign --

JORDAN: Right.

[07:20:08] CUOMO: -- "Spygate." Do you believe that we have any factual basis for saying that there was a spy in the Trump campaign?

JORDAN: Well, if you read the "New York Times" piece, they talk about this individual. They give all kinds of details about this individual.

CUOMO: Not as a spy. Continue.

JORDAN: And the fact that he met with all kinds of folks on kind of the periphery of the Trump campaign. But I think you have -- so it sure looks like that was the case. But we're going to wait and see.

That's why Chairman Nunes has been requesting information to actually show that this took place. And the Department of Justice has been reluctant to give it to him. So let's hope that that actually happens.

But Chris, when you couple it with what we do know they did, five of the top people at the FBI have been fired, like James Comey or Andrew McCabe. Andrew McCabe actually faces a criminal referral.

Three, like Jim Baker, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, have all been demoted and reassigned. And two of those three have retired in just the last three weeks.

So we have five of the top people who, oh, by the way, happen to be the same people who ran the Clinton investigation and then launched the Trump Russia investigation, that should be cause for concern. And again, when you couple it with what we know about the dossier and how that was used, I think all this points to why we need information and why months ago, we called for a second special counsel to get to the bottom of all of this. And why now we have 25 individuals in the House of Representatives who support Mr. Zeldin's resolution.

CUOMO: All right. Now, I wanted you to be able to get out your full case there. Thank you for doing so. One, 25, not an impressive number, especially with how many people you have who are trying to support the president's theories, no matter how wild they are. It seems to me --

JORDAN: Chris --

CUOMO: -- Jim, if you were right about this --

JORDAN: The chairman of the Judiciary has called for it. The chairman of the Oversight Committee.

CUOMO: But you only have 25 people.

JORDAN: The majority -- we just introduced it yesterday. The majority whip has called for it. The majority leader has called for it. So this is -- this is -- a number of people who have had real influence are now calling for a second special counsel.

CUOMO: But the rank and file is slow on it, because they know that it seems to be something that would take us down the road of more of the same in terms of politicized nonsense. But this is why I say that, Jim.

Let me give you a chance to respond to this. If what you just said was not true, that these people hadn't been removed, that people who were identified as being, in some way, negative influences on the administration of justice, if they hadn't been dealt with, if they were still there, then you would have something, my friend. You'd be able to say how is McCabe still there. How are Strzok and Page and Brennan and these other ones, how are they still in office? How can you say that they're there and this is fair, but none is there? They've all been moved away.

And you have an inspector general who's got way more staff than you will ever be able to put together for a special counsel.

JORDAN: But he didn't --

CUOMO: How did McCabe, who has done a review of what happened with the Clinton e-mail scandal, which you guys keep saying is damning --

JORDAN: And he's the guy who gave us the Strzok/Page text messages, you're right. A special counsel --

CUOMO: So they can do the job. Why try to create another politicized mess? Why?

JORDAN: Because according to the attorney general, when you have extraordinary circumstances, that's when you name a special counsel. If this is an extraordinary circumstance where five of the top people at the FBI have been, as I said, fired or demoted and many of them

are retired. And when you have all that going on and you have those people, the FBI take a disproven, salacious dossier to the secret court to get a secret warrant to spy on a fellow American citizen. And when they go to the court, they don't tell them two important facts. Namely, who paid for it, e Democrat National Committee, and tthe author of the dossier, Christopher Steele, had been fired by the FBI, because he's out leaking information. They didn't tell the court those two important pieces of information.

CUOMO: All right.

JORDAN: So you go to court --

CUOMO: You're flooding the zone.

JORDAN: We've got to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. The FBI should definitely do the same darn thing.

CUOMO: You're flooding the zone, and if you want to tell the whole truth, then don't shade everything. They did trust Steele. They didn't like that he went out. That severed the relationship. It wasn't that they didn't trust his sourcing or his work. They did disclose where the dossier came from. It is not all false allegations in that dossier. You know this to be the case, even though you have never seen a FISA application itself. FISA --

JORDAN: -- any type of collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign --

CUOMO: Hold on.

JORDAN: -- and Russia.

CUOMO: Jim, that is demonstrably false. We have tons of proof.

JORDAN: What do you mean it's demonstrably false? Even Democrats are saying --

CUOMO: We have tons of --

JORDAN: The "New York Times" said that last week, Chris. You know that's the case.

CUOMO: Talking over me does not silence the point. They have to come out. We have to have this conversation so people who think independently can make decisions. There is tons of proof of potential collusion. We don't know --

JORDAN: Lost you, Chris.

CUOMO: Sure you did. No.

JORDAN: No, I did. Say it again.

CUOMO: I believe you, brother. I believe you.


CUOMO: There is tons of proof of potential collusion. The things that were said, the things that were done were in bad discretion, bad choices. And then you have to look at what the motivations are. We don't know the conclusions on those by this special counsel to get ahead of the conclusions is misleading.

JORDAN: Chris --

[07:25:11] CUOMO: FISA as a tool was created by Congress to make sure you don't have secret surveillance. That it must be vetted by a judge. So that process in and of itself is a safeguard.

And what I don't get about the special counsel is what he said in the memo, Rosenstein. I read it five times last night to try to understand where you guys were coming from. The extraordinary circumstance was that the DOJ couldn't properly investigate this president because of what was clear in the dynamic. He got rid of Comey. He was asking questions about the investigation. Sessions had to recuse himself. That is what triggered Rosenstein to bring in the special counsel.

You don't have that here, because you have all your own people in charge, Jim. The attorney general, the head of the FBI, all the people there are your people.

JORDAN: Now you're filibustering. A couple things.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

JORDAN: When you use the word "collusion," when you use "potential" in front of it. Potential collusion is not collusion. That's proving my point. There is no collusion. There's been no evidence.

CUOMO: There are no conclusions of collusion, because the investigation is not over. But there's plenty of proof of it. I see proof as potential. I don't see dispositive crimes being charged.

JORDAN: How about this? Here's a reason you need a second special counsel. I don't like them. I wish we didn't have to have them, but I see no other remedy here. Here's the reason.

Can Rod Rosenstein oversee an investigation of potential obstruction of justice in the firing of James Comey, when he's the one who wrote the memo for firing James Comey? That's where we're at.

CUOMO: So you're bothered by the fact that he's on your side of an argument, so you don't want him to do the investigation?

JORDAN: No. I'm bothered by what I just stated. Can he really do that? So that's just one of many reasons why you -- I believe you need this remedy, a second special counsel. It's why we called for it 10 months ago.

CUOMO: You're not asking for anybody to look into why Trump fired Comey, are you?

JORDAN: I'm looking into -- I'm ask -- no, no, no. That's what -- Mueller has said he's looking into potential obstruction of justice in the firing of James Comey.

CUOMO: So that's why you have Mueller.

JORDAN: He oversees the investigation. And he's the one who wrote the memo to fire James Comey.

CUOMO: Mueller is the one who draws -- Mueller is the one who draws the conclusions about it. That's why Rosenstein is insulated. He oversees. He does not conduct. And Mueller would do the investigating, a man that was celebrated by so many in your party as a hero.

JORDAN: Think about this. Chris, think about this. If he's so insulated, why did he write a second memo on Augusts 2, changing the parameters, modifying the parameters of the investigation? And why won't he show that memo to the American people?

May 17, one year ago, we had the memo outlining here's the framework for Bob Mueller's investigation into the president that the American people elected. That was the framework. And it was modified on August 2. And Rod Rosenstein won't show us that, that modification.

CUOMO: Modified how?

JORDAN: The federal -- we don't know. We haven't seen it.

CUOMO: But what do you want to assume about the modification?

JORDAN: Because the American people have a right to know.

CUOMO: I agree. I'm all about transparency. The American people should know everything because clearly, the partisans can't be trusted to tell them the full truth about this. You can't have any political oversight right now. That's true.

JORDAN: Tomorrow Chairman Nunes is going to the DOJ to get transparency.

CUOMO: With no Democrats.

JORDAN: I want to see the -- You know what? If they want to come, let them come. I'm all for transparency.

CUOMO: Why weren't they invited?

JORDAN: I don't know. You'd have to ask them.

CUOMO: You don't know, Jim?

JORDAN: I don't know if Adam Schiff was. I'm not chairman of the -- of the Intelligence Committee. But what I do know is that -- that Rod Rosenstein wrote a memo on August 2 that a federal judge four weeks ago said he wanted to see, and he got to see --

CUOMO: You don't even know what it is says. You're speculating on what it might mean, when it could just be a pro forma procedural indication of expanding the probe as the facts and issues arise.

JORDAN: You just said you want transparency. I want --

CUOMO: I want to see it. Don't get me wrong. I certainly don't want to hear from you guys what it says. I certainly don't want to have two of your guys go into a meeting with the feds and come out and tell me what it means. I certainly don't want that.

JORDAN: I'm not saying what it says. All I want -- all I'm saying is I want to see it. We've asked -- I asked Rod Rosenstein in person to see it. We've sent him a letter. They sent us a letter back saying, "Sorry, we're not going to show it to you." CUOMO: All right, Jim. I hear you on that. I agree there should be

transparency. I've never argued differently to you. I've never even asked you a question against those kinds of intentions of encouraging transparency, assuming it doesn't reveal sources and methods or anything that would compromise anybody's life --

JORDAN: Of course.

CUOMO: -- or the integrity of the investigation. But this is the last question for you. I don't get this, what's going to happen tomorrow. WE can't have more partisanship that we have right now. The chasm would swallow us both up, and we're capable guys. How do you go in there tomorrow with just Nunes, who's so compromised, and with Trey Gowdy, who for, despite his recent rhetoric of being fair and disgusted with everything, is known as Captain Benghazi to the Democrats, and they don't have anyone from the other side? How can this help, what happens tomorrow? How can it help?

JORDAN: The question, Chris, is real simple. We want to know if, in fact, and it sure looks like this was the case. If in fact, there were informants around the edges of the Trump campaign, talking to people loosely affiliated --