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Trump Pushes Unproven Campaign Spy Claims; DOJ to Conduct Two Separate Briefings on FBI Source; NFL Players Face Fines for Not Standing for National Anthem; U.S. Car Imports May be Next Target for Tariffs; CNN Witnesses Apparent Destruction of North Korean Test Site. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] CAMEROTA: Poppy, it's a bittersweet emotional day here.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: A bittersweet emotional day. And, Chris, to you as much as I want to make jokes, I think my message to you is, you made us all better journalists from daily one, but for me, you made me a better parent and you were the one that always told me before I had our two children, it's all about the kids, it's all about the family, that's number one. So thank you for that.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks, Pop.

HARLOW: Heads up.

CUOMO: Please take the show as quickly as possible.


HARLOW: Thank you, guys. Good luck, Chris. Let's get started.

CUOMO: Thank you.

HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

It is on. A briefing the Justice Department never wanted to have and a confidential source used early in the days of the Russia probe. Not only is this briefing happening now, it is happening twice today after an uproar from congressional Democrats. Leaders from the FBI and the Justice Department will brief members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans after they brief House Republicans on this FBI source that had reached out to certain members of the Trump campaign early in 2016.

This all begins at noon Eastern in Washington three hours from now. The meetings follow days of unsubstantiated claims from the president that the FBI had a spy in his campaign, quote, "for political purposes." Again, totally unsubstantiated. This morning the president pushed back on some pretty rampant criticisms of those remarks.

Also this, speaking to FOX News, the president suggested a punishment worse than fines, much worse, for NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country.


HARLOW: You heard that right. The president of the United States suggested potential deportation for anyone that kneels during the national anthem.

Let's go to the White House. Kaitlan Collins is there, good morning.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, the president has been very active this morning. There's that interview that he just did there and also on Twitter reiterating his claims about the FBI spying on his campaign, claims I should note that are unverified, uncorroborated, and there is no proof of what the president has said so far, even yesterday when he was asked what proof he had that someone was spying on his campaign. He said he believed it would come out at a later date.

Now this morning he has once again incorrectly misquoting the former director of National Intelligence James Clapper saying that Clapper admitted that there were spies inside of the Trump campaign which is exactly the opposite of what James Clapper actually said this week when he was asked point-blank was the FBI spying on the Trump campaign and Clapper said, no, they were not.

Instead what Clapper actually said was that that confidential intelligence source that we have been reporting about was there to figure out what the Russians were doing to penetrate a political campaign. So they're the president twisting James Clapper's words to push his narrative here that his campaign was spied on, and also this morning the president responding to former FBI director James Comey who criticized President Trump yesterday after he has made these allegations that his campaign was being spied on.

James Comey going after the president on Twitter saying that just simply wasn't the case. That spy was not the term for what that person was. They were a confidential intelligence source and the president was asked about James Comey's tweet and he had a few words to say about that.


TRUMP: How is he going to explain to his grandchildren all of the lies, the deceit, all of the problems he's caused for this country? I think a thing that I've done for the country, the firing of James Comey, is going to go down as a very good thing.


COLLINS: So there and a little bit later on in that answer, the president talking at length about how he thinks the FBI is a great institution while the president over the last few days has been making the allegation that the FBI was spying on his presidential campaign.

So we've got those two things hand in hand. The president continuing to go after James Comey. We know that the firing of James Comey is something the special counsel's investigation is looking at, but the president there repeating that he thinks what he did was the right move -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thank you for that.

So these two different confidential briefings for members of Congress today with two different guests list.

Let's go to our Justice Reporter, Laura Jarrett with more.

First of all, why two and do we know if they're any different?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Fair questions, Poppy. These highly anticipated briefings set to get under way here at the Justice Department in just the next few hours, but the big question is, will anybody leave satisfied? House Republican have already been clamoring that they may not get exactly what they want, meaning the documents on this closely guarded FBI intelligence source, Democrats crying foul that this is all just a big -- distraction, rather, from the Russia investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Even the guest list had been shrouded in secrecy for days but we now know the Justice Department confirmed late last night that there will be in fact two different briefings.

[09:05:03] One at noon with top officials at the Justice Department and FBI, and director of National Intelligence here at the Justice Department with Chairman Devin Nunes as well as Congressman Trey Gowdy, both members of the House Intelligence Committee, as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan and then that will be followed by a separate bipartisan briefing at 2:00 p.m. with what's known as the Gang of Eight, top leaders in the House and Senate, both Republican and Democratic leaders as well, House and Senate Intel Committees.

But, you know, many people have raised the question of, as you did, Poppy, why are there two briefings? In fact Chuck Schumer, the leader of -- obviously the Democratic minority leader, put out a statement blasting the move this morning, saying, "While it's a good thing that the Gang of Eight will be briefed, the separate meeting with a known partisan who's only intent is to undermine the Mueller investigation makes no sense and should be called off. What is the point of the separate briefing if not to cause partisan trouble?"

So obviously taking a swipe there at Chairman Nunes but it's not at all clear, Poppy, that Nunes will even get what he wants.

HARLOW: Yes. Laura Jarrett, thank you from the Justice Department. Appreciate it.

Joining me now CNN Counterterrorism Analyst, Phil Mudd, former Federal Prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers.

Phil, let me begin with you on two beats. What kind of intel can even be revealed? To Laura's point, is Nunes even going to get what he wants in this meeting?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think he'll get part of what he wants but not everything. And one of the reasons this meeting is significant is Justice Department won half of the battle here. And that is apparently they're not going to have to turn over documents.

Look, the information that -- Devin Nunes has already done part of what he wanted to do which is to reveal the name of the informant. We're not talking about that name. But it's all over the news.

HARLOW: Right.

MUDD: The information, it could be disastrous, whether -- what was acquired from that informant which I think is fair for the oversight committee to know and how to move forward, how do we get out of this box where the Congress continues to tell the Department of Justice that they're not cooperating with the investigation.

HARLOW: Yes. And those two meetings make any sense to you?

MUDD: Not really. I mean, you can construct a scenario where they make -- where it makes sense. That is the first meeting is about clearing the air between people who obviously don't like each other and the second meeting, the bipartisan meeting, is about talking about the actual informant. That's a stretch.

If you're dealing with intelligence, you want a common picture. If you're having separate meetings, you risk both sides coming out with different ideas on what the real story is.

HARLOW: Jennifer, to you, you know, you've got concerns raised by Democrats like the ranking member on House Intel, Adam Schiff, who's concerned that what John Kelly at least in part of the meeting if not the whole thing, you've got the potential for the White House to be using this information for the personal defense of the president. Legitimate concern?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. I mean, the president sort of wears two hats here in a way. I mean, they supposedly brokered this meeting so that Congress can get the oversight that they need but the president is also the criminal subject of an investigation that's ongoing. And no criminal subjects gets an inside look at the investigation which is confidential --

HARLOW: But his chief of staff will to some extent.

RODGERS: Exactly. That's the point. So the chief of staff should not be in this meeting. The president should not know what's happening in this meeting.


RODGERS: He's brokered this meeting and he should be out of it.

HARLOW: You know, Phil, you've also got what struck me so much out of Pompeo's -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's testimony yesterday in front of Congress and he goes back to the Hill for more today, is that he was asked, look, you know, your boss, the president of the United States says this is the deep state and that essentially the intelligence community is all against me. This is a plot to get me. Paraphrasing there.

This is what Pompeo said, quote, when he was asked about it, "I don't believe there is a deep state at the State Department." He said the same thing about the CIA. So then what?

MUDD: I mean, if you look at who runs these so-called deep state it's 2Republicans. It's a Republican nominated CIA director, secretary of State, secretary of Defense, as we talked about hundred times. The people running the investigation are people like Senator Burr, obviously a Republican on the Senate side over the Hill, that's a Republican running the Department of Justice.

I'd add another point. I mean, for the first time in the 110-year history of the FBI, they're portrayed by the president as sort of tree hugging liberals. That was not the FBI that I experienced. So, I mean, I guess I represent, after 33 years of watching this stuff, 25 years in government, a representative of the deep state. I didn't see it when I was in and I don't know how you claim it.

HARLOW: I mean, if you accept the president's claim, you know, in a fulsome manner that there is a spy or this is a deep state, you'd also have to admit it didn't work, right, Phil?

MUDD: It didn't. And if you accept the president's claim you would say that if you're investigating a mayor of a small town for corruption, for example, sending contracts to his cousin, you're not allowed to investigate that, you're not allowed to put an informant in that?

HARLOW: Right.

MUDD: I don't care if you're a president or a mayor, you're going to get investigated if there's evidence of a crime.

HARLOW: Let's talk, Jennifer, about Jared Kushner. So we've learned yesterday from his attorney that he sat down for seven plus additional hours of interview testimony in front of Mueller's team and then he's been cleared for his full security clearance.

[09:10:00] What is the significance of that to you in terms of what he may mean or not mean in the Mueller probe?

RODGERS: I think it likely means, Poppy, that he's not going to be charged in the Mueller probe. If you have someone that you're about to charge criminally you would interfere with their security clearance. You wouldn't want that person having top secret clearance. So I think reading the tea leaves it means he's probably not going to be charged, and you know, I'm interested in the fact that he sat down for so long with the special counsel.


RODGERS: You know, there's speculation that the family wasn't being asked any questions at all so that's a good sign.

HARLOW: And we have 30 seconds left. Giuliani now tells "The Washington Post," "I guess I'd rather do the interview," meaning the president do the interview with Mueller. "And gets it over with, it makes my client happy." Total 180 from Giuliani, strategic or muddy the waters?

RODGERS: Muddy the waters. I mean, he's back and forth. Who knows what he's thinking? It's just he's just thinking out loud on TV. I don't trust anything he's saying at this point on that point.

HARLOW: OK. Thank you. Appreciate it very much, both of you, Phil Mudd, Jennifer Rodgers.

Ahead for us, maybe you shouldn't be here. Yes, that is what the president said this morning about NFL players who do not stand for the national anthem. We'll dig in.

Also North Korea warns of a nuclear showdown and slams the vice president. What this could mean for that high stakes summit just weeks away.

And CNN's Will Ripley just one of a handful of journalists to witness what Kim Jong-un's regime says is the destruction of a nuclear site. We will take you inside of North Korea.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think people should be staying in locker rooms.

But still, I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem.


HARLOW,: That was President Trump responding to the NFL's new anthem rule that teams or players will be fined if they don't "show appropriate respect" for the anthem.

Christine Brennan is here, our sports analyst and sports columnist for "USA Today." I was stunned listening to this at my desk this morning. Deportation for exercising a First Amendment right of kneeling for the anthem? Is that what you heard, the president suggest, as even a possibility?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: We are replaying, Poppy, what we saw in late September in that Alabama Senate race, when Trump issued that infamous line, the SOB line that triggered all of this.

Here we are again. The NFL, I think, has done exactly what it never wanted to do. I don't know if they thought this through. I can't believe the owners did this. They have now ensured that this story will be like a drumbeat every day now into September.

And, yes, to answer your question, that sure sounds like what Donald Trump said. It's truly unbelievable that the owners then sided with him.

We understand all the controversy, but it's all ginned up all over again. None of this had to happen.

HARLOW: The controversy didn't go away, but lessened as the season went on, right? And so, it just - why is it all coming back to the floor now?

BRENNAN: Well, because several owners were very concerned about the bottom line and concerned about the protests. And that's a part of this conversation.

I mean, there's no doubt that there were people who were very angry about the players protesting, even though we have to remember, almost two years ago now, it was Colin Kaepernick taking a knee on the topic of social injustice.

So, this was not against the flag, against the police, against anything, but it morphed into something much more. And again, Trump threw fuel on the flame and that's where, I think, so many owners got concerned.

HARLOW: You bring up the owners. And this is important because several of the owners, you'll remember, made headlines by publicly displaying their support for their players taking a knee, locking arms with them.

Yet, this vote by the owners to change the rules here and impose fines on anyone that chooses to kneel was unanimous, so there was quite a reversal.

BRENNAN: There was. At least one abstention. But, yes, absolutely. I think the owners don't know what to do.

I think that Trump has turned everything upside down. And let's make no mistake, if Donald Trump doesn't say what he said in September, we're not having this conversation today because it would have just died a slow and natural death.

The issue was going away. Kaepernick was out of the league. He wasn't talking, Poppy, and all of a sudden, it all came up again because of Trump in September.

And here you can say, again, the same thing, a very parallel situation. And I think we're going to see a parallel situation moving forward.

I think players who weren't going to protest now will protest.

HARLOW: You do?

BRENNAN: Can they hold signs as they stand? Can they hold signs? Can they put something on their headbands as they stand? If the whole point is standing, what can they do? Who's in the locker room? Who's not?

Journalists will not be doing our jobs if we don't chronicle every piece of that. People in the hot dog stand, do they have to stop? People in the concourse, people in the bathroom, must they come out?

Wow! I mean, this has opened a can of worms, again, I don't think the NFL owners thought this through. I can't imagine you would have wanted to have this kind of story in May as we move towards a September start to the NFL.

HARLOW: I can guess what your column is about today, going to be about. Christine Brennan, thank you. Appreciate it.

BRENNAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. So, this morning, the president is laying the ground work for a trade fight. This one over cars. The administration launching an investigation into whether or not importing cars and trucks risks national security.

What's the argument here? Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins me. What's the true line here?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And what's the strategy? And how can a Volvo or Camry, right, be some kind of a national security threat to the United States?

The Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is claiming that car imports have eroded our domestic auto industry. He plans to investigate if that hurts national security.

A similar probe, remember, led to steel and aluminum tariffs earlier this year. This follows Trump's promise to US automakers. This is what he told them.

"After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough." He's calling the auto industry critical to US strength. So, this is an America first. That's how you follow that thread here.

The investigation will cover auto parts as well, cars, SUVs, vans, light trucks. Any tariffs would hit Asian automakers the hardest. About a third of all US car imports are from Asia.

[09:20:00] And the announcement sparked a big selloff, of course, in Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, the biggest loser overnight, down more than 5 percent. It does not produce cars in the US.

But many foreign automakers do. They have plants here. There are many, many foreign automakers that employ American workers to build cars to export.

However, they also export parts and cars to the US from Asia, Mexico and Canada. It's truly a globalized supply chain. Auto tariffs would be, of course, the next front for the White House trade battles, including these ongoing talks with China. It says it opposes abuse of national security rules. So, this - file that under this.

This also puts new pressure on Canada and Mexico. NAFTA talks have stalled mostly because of problems with auto provisions. Interesting.

HARLOW: Interesting for sure. What do the markets look like this morning?

ROMANS: A little bit lower right now. About 60 points lower I think is what you could see at the opening bell. Asia was down overnight because of concerns about investigating potential national security implications of importing cars. That just wrangles the folks who don't want to see trade wars. So, you've got stocks down. Probably open down in about ten-minute time.

HARLOW: All right. Roman, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Appreciate it as always.

Ahead for us, North Korea lashes out again at the United States, says it's ready for a nuclear showdown if the time comes. Is the president's summit with Kim Jong-un at risk?


[09:25:57] HARLOW: An explosive statement overnight from North Korea. The regime says it destroyed parts of its nuclear test site just weeks before this planned summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. Only a handful of journalists were allowed inside of North Korea to witness this. And our Will Ripley is one of them. Watch.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now, we're on a train making the 12-hour journey from the Punggye-ri nuclear test site back to the coastal city of Wonsan.

We spent about ten hours on the ground at the nuclear test site. A lot more time frankly than we were expecting. And what the North Koreans did was they took us to three of the four tunnels on the site.

They allowed us to open up the tunnel doors, take a look inside. We couldn't actually step inside the tunnels, but we saw that, as far as the eye could see, they were rigged with explosives.

They say the fourth tunnel on the site, a tunnel that was used for just one nuclear test back in 2006, they say that tunnel has already been shut down and closed. And so, what we saw was the apparent demolition of the remaining three tunnels, including tunnel number two, which has been used for the previous five North Korean nuclear tests, including that test last September that triggered a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

They also showed us two additional tunnels that they say have never been used before and were, until today, ready to conduct a high- powered nuclear test at any moment.

This, the North Koreans say, is evidence of their commitment to transparency, to denuclearization ahead of the crucial planned summit in Singapore between North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump scheduled to happen on June 12, also there have been some questions raised (INAUDIBLE) as to whether or not it's actually going to happen on that date.

The North Koreans invited about two dozen of us, more than two dozen of us to witness these explosions. They also destroyed a number of different buildings on site, barracks, observation buildings, that sort of thing.

But it's noteworthy that there were no international experts with us in this group. So, there was nobody who could look at the explosions and tell us if they were actually deep enough to destroy the tunnels or if they were simply just closing up the entrances to the tunnels.

Those are the kinds of questions that we as journalists, untrained observers, can't really answer, but we took many, many pictures, lots of video. And as soon as we get back within range, our communications are in and out, but when we can get back and start to feed this in, hopefully, global experts will take a look and tell us exactly what we saw.

I'm Will Ripley reporting on a train inside North Korea near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.


HARLOW: I just want to note what remarkable access that is, that Will Ripley has had. And we'll get more from him in the coming hours.

Also, this morning, North Korea is warning it's ready for a nuclear showdown if talks with the US fail and slamming Vice President Mike Pence as a "political dummy" for his recent comments on the negotiations.

This all comes as President Trump says he has certain conditions that have to be met before he will sit down with Kim, but forcing the country to immediately give up its nuclear weapons does not seem to be one of those demands any more. Listen to the president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then you're OK with a phase in of a denuclearization if confidence measures are required? TRUMP: We're going to see. I'd like to have it done immediately, but, physically, a phase in may be a little bit necessary, would have to be a rapid phase in, but I'd like to see it done at one time.


HARLOW: That's quite a reversal. Joining me now is Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. He sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will question Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later this morning.

Thank you for being with me.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Poppy, it's good to be with you. Thanks.

HARLOW: Is the president right? Is a phase-in approach OK?

CARDIN: Well, I think it's unrealistic to expect that overnight we're going to see the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

I think what we need to do is have a game plan that starts with a freeze and ends with denuclearization with inspections. That clearly is what we're going to be looking to.

So, I think diplomacy is the right way. And I think we need to be realistic.

HARLOW: So, senator, here's the problem, right? As you well know, the freezes in the past administration to administration have completely - have utterly failed. And that's why this administration was demanding denuclearization immediately.

Now, that may have not been the right card to play in the negotiations.