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Intelligence Briefing to Include Democrats; Lawyer: Kushner Met with Mueller Team for Second Time. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 24, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was absolutely inappropriate to proceed without any Democratic presence.
[05:59:22] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took this kind of public pressure to have the most basic bipartisan meeting.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They could all be in the room. But I want total transparency.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president was right. He was spied upon. He was surveilled.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't believe there's a deep state at the State Department.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our presidency has been debased by a figure who seemingly has a bottomless appetite for division.
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn't make a deal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This North Korean official calling his remarks stupid.
POMPEO: I hope that we can have this historic opportunity to do something that would transform the world for possibly a long time.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, May 24, 6 a.m. here in New York. And like "Seinfeld," before this is all over, Chris and I will end up in a jail cell, this morning.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Again.
CAMEROTA: Again. This is -- enjoy these three hours, because this is our last hurrah. Stick around.
CUOMO: Keep going, keep going. CAMEROTA: Stick around till the end of the show, and we will play Chris's greatest hits.
CUOMO: One minute and eight seconds.
CAMEROTA: Save time for that. In the meantime, here's our starting line.
A bipartisan group of top congressional leaders will get briefed today on the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling, including the FBI's use of a confidential source to figure out if Russia was colluding with the Trump campaign.
The bipartisan briefing is happening now only after Democrats complained that the White House was politicizing intelligence by initially offering the briefing only to Republicans.
Meanwhile, the president continues to repeat his evidence-free claim that the Obama administration planted a spy in his campaign. Mr. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has permanent top- level security clearance. How did that happen? Well, this comes as we learned that Kushner was questioned for a second time for seven hours by Robert Mueller's investigators about potential Russian collusion and obstruction issues.
CUOMO: You know, we were with Nancy Pelosi last night for the town hall. She didn't know. Even as of, like, 9 p.m.
CAMEROTA: That he's gotten security clearance?
CUOMO: No, no. That she knew. That they would have a bipartisan meeting. Even as of 9 p.m., 10 p.m. last night, they still thought it was going to be two waves, just like the memo. Remember what we lived through on that? We were this close to a repeat. So we'll take you through that.
The war of words between the U.S. and North Korea escalating ahead of President Trump's planned summit with Kim Jong-un. A North Korean official slamming the vice president, calling Mike Pence, quote, "a political dummy" and saying it's ready for a nuclear showdown if talks with the U.S. fail.
And what do you think about the new NFL rule? The league facing scrutiny after announcing a new policy aimed at quelling the debate over national anthem protests. Not really quelling, they're cancelling the ability, really. The league now says players must stand for the anthem or they stay in the locker room. And if they come out and kneel or protest, there will be a fine. The question is, is the NFL sidelining free speech?
Let's begin our coverage. We've got CNN's Kaitlan Collins live at the White House. What have you got?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot going on here today, Chris and Alisyn. And after initially only scheduling a briefing only on that confidential intelligence source in the Russia investigation for two Republican lawmakers, there is now going to be a bipartisan briefing today. But how we got here is a very long story that changed multiple times overnight.
And what it ended with was President Trump telling aides, including the chief of staff, John Kelly, that he wanted Democrats to be involved in that briefing, because he didn't want there to be accusations of bipartisan -- of partisanship and for Democrats to be able to say that the White House is playing games.
And the reason the president didn't want that to happen is because he didn't want it to overshadow what he believes is the larger story here, a conspiracy that there are law enforcement officials who are working against him.
COLLINS (voice-over): The Justice Department announcing that it will hold two back-to-back meetings today about the Russia probe. The first, with Republican chairmen Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, and the second with Gowdy and the bipartisan Gang of Eight.
A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan telling CNN he won't be at the meeting due to a longstanding schedule commitment. White House chief of staff John Kelly, however, will be in attendance, despite this statement from press secretary Sarah Sanders.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president asked Chief of Staff Kelly to set up the meeting. No one from the White House staff will end.
COLLINS: The decisions to hold two briefings coming after sharp criticism from Democrats for being excluded from the first proposed meeting.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY: I've never seen anything like this. This is highly unusual that you would have such a briefing in the middle of an investigation. Highly unusual. And that it should be partisan is just totally unacceptable.
COLLINS: The White House initially proposing a Gang of Eight briefing next month, then moving the date up to next week, before conceding to hold both meetings today.
A notable change after the White House repeatedly said that Democrats didn't want to be invited.
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: But they aren't asking for the information. They -- for whatever reason, it appears they don't want to is see light shed on this particular investigation.
COLLINS: President Trump pushing back on the charge from Democrats that the briefing is politically motivated.
TRUMP: What I want from Rod, from the FBI, from everybody, we want transparency.
COLLINS: But continuing to push his unproven claim that a, quote, "spy" infiltrated his campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What proof do you have that your campaign was spied on?
[06:05:06] TRUMP: All you have to do is look at the basics, and you'll see. It looks like a very serious event. But we'll find out. When they look at the documents, I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happen.
COLLINS: Government officials telling CNN that Trump's allegation isn't true, but that hasn't stopped the president and his allies from repeating it.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If they ran a spy ring, that is an absolute red line.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'm shocked to hear that they put a spy in the campaign.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: This is a deep-state political hit job now spying on an opposition party campaign.
COLLINS: President Trump pushing the deep-state conspiracy on Twitter Wednesday, a characterization his own secretary of state has rejected.
POMPEO: I don't believe there's a deep state at the State Department.
COLLINS: The president also misquoting the former director of national intelligence James Clapper to push his narrative.
TRUMP: I mean, if you look at Clapper, he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday, inadvertently.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: They were spying on -- a term I don't particularly like -- but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand, were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence.
JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": So what does it mean?
CLAPPER: It's what they do.
COLLINS: So Chris and Alisyn, the president there twisting James Clapper's words to fit what he has alleged, of course. It's important to watch the president's language as all of this goes on. He has a history of making these outrageous statements without evidence but couching them with enough language to where he can later say it was something he merely suggested.
There are a handful of ideas that come to mind. When the president said that Barack Obama had wiretapped him, when he implied that he had taped his conversations with James Comey. When he questioned where President Obama had been born; implying that Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of an intern. There are multiple examples -- examples here of the president doing this here in the past.
But back to this meeting today. Even the president's allies think they may not get all of the information that they've requested.
CUOMO: We'd let you list all the times that he's gone too far and pitched a conspiracy, but then we'd have to blow off my good-bye piece.
CAMEROTA: That's right.
CUOMO: So maybe tomorrow we'll do that.
CAMEROTA: And the weekend.
CUOMO: And the weekend would have to be canceled.
CAMEROTA: Yes, that's right. Kaitlan, thank you very much.
Joining us now are CNN national security commentator and former chair of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers; and CNN political analyst David Gregory.
Mike Rogers, let's start with you. Because you know how this works. Help us understand why there has to be two meetings today. Why couldn't there be one meeting that was bipartisan? And what will be the difference in the first Devin Nunes/Trey Gowdy meeting and that of the second bipartisan meeting today?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Yes. The whole thing is a little bit unfortunate. There shouldn't be two meetings. I'm not even sure there should be one meeting if you're talking about disclosing a confidential informant or an asset or a source that was working on international issues, as well as may or may not have engaged in some of these Trump campaign folks.
Normally in that case, if you had the chairman of Oversight and the chairman of Intelligence, you'd have their ranking members, both the Republicans and the Democrat leaders of both of those committees.
So in this case I'm going to agree with Trey Gowdy that Congress can't conduct serious investigations, because they can't get over their biases. And that's what's troublesome about this.
As a former FBI guy, you know, you look people in the face who are committing to you that they're going to do bad things for whatever organization they're a part of, because they think it's wrong, and give you that information. You tell them, "I'm going to keep you safe. I'm going to do all the right things. We'll get to the bottom of this."
And what happens when you politicize this to this degree, is you're going to disclose these confidential informants or sources or assets in a way that is dangerous for their lives and dangerous for recruiting new people. Would you trust -- would you want to be in this mess? Would you want to step forward and say, "I'm going to do the right thing, because I have information on the Russians, or the Chinese, or the Iranians doing X"? That's what I worry about in this. And they've lost that seriousness of what -- the task of the duty which is at hand.
CUOMO: Mike, quick bounce question. What is the chance that they get information today that there was a spy ring, that there was someone implanted in the campaign and that now they're coming clean and the president was right? What is the chance of that?
ROGERS: I just don't think it's very good. I think when you take what Clapper said, and by the way, Sam Clovis came out. He was one of the individuals that was supposedly engaged by this confidential informant.
CUOMO: And Carter Page, who also said --
ROGERS: I didn't mean Page. I meant Sam Clovis. I don't know if -- I don't know if Page came forward or not.
CUOMO: He did. CAMEROTA: He did.
ROGERS: Oh, did he? I missed that.
But if you look at just what Sam Clovis said, he said, "Hey, listen, all's he did was talk to me about China." This is a guy, at least in the public reports, if this is their informant -- and I think that's the one they're talking about -- he's been engaged in foreign policy discussions with a whole host of presidents and presidential campaigns. And it may be simply that.
[06:10:07] He may also have been providing information on what the Russians are up to in places like -- I don't know -- England. And we know there's a lot -- a lot going on there.
And so I think they've conflated a lot of things. I just don't think the odds are very good. I think it was highly suspect that they would task an asset or informant to go after someone in the campaign. I can't imagine them doing that. If they did it, I will tell you, that's a pretty serious event. I'm just a little bit -- I'm going to hold out here for more facts before I could ever get to that conclusion.
CAMEROTA: David Gregory, I could not get past the split screen juxtaposition yesterday of the president and the heads of ICE and the acting A.G. holding the meeting on MS-13, and talking about how vital the FBI and the Department of Justice had been fighting MS-13 in our neighborhoods, cracking down on them, using whatever intel and sources and methods that they use and how important the FBI is.
I have all of the quotes of what they said yesterday. So are they the criminal deep state or are they keeping our neighborhoods safe? Because it was confusing yesterday when the president held that meeting about MS-13.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So we just have to call out the president for what he's doing. He's just trying to savage this investigation, trying to delegitimize it. Doesn't care who or what institutions he harms in the process to try to deflect attention of this investigation away from him by creating this specter of a spy ring, which is completely ridiculous.
I mean, I think there's a couple points here. One, we really lose the importance of congressional oversight when it's used in this way. You know, Mike has been involved in areas that are very controversial around intelligence, around national security policy. I go back to the Bush administration post-9/11. And, you know, the briefings that happened with the Gang of Six with regard to interrogation techniques, the NSA program. All of which were highly controversial. But you had a bipartisan group that was read in, that was briefed, and there was consensus there.
It doesn't mean that it didn't unravel later. But you're using the mechanism of congressional oversight, throwing it out the window just to advance, you know, a partisan agenda. So that we can't even agree on the basics of a process here. That's going to become politicized. It's really dangerous.
The other piece is, this just doesn't add up. I just want to be clear. The accusation is that President Obama decided to drop a dime and sabotage Trump, but he didn't take any action to stop the Russians? And the FBI didn't leak any of this to hurt Trump before the election? I mean, the stuff just simply doesn't add up.
And one last point. You know, I remember also the CIA leak investigation when Valerie Plame was outed. It was a huge deal. The Bush White House was apoplectic about this investigation. They thought it was wrong. They thought it was unfair. And never did they do anything like this to try to undermine the actual investigation. They respected the process. We don't have any of that here.
CUOMO: So let's talk about why we're doing it. You know, Mike, often in these situations, Alisyn and I are like, "Hmm, should we give this that much attention, if it's obviously a distraction, if he's trying to, you know, just kind of interfere with what's going on?" But I guess you have to. Because when they're making such material misstatements of fact, you've got to follow it all through. And the president is picking his words carefully.
Let's put up the A.P. quote about what the understanding is of why he's using the words he's using. "Trump told one ally this week that he wanted 'to brand the informant a spy, believing the more nefarious the term, it would resonate more in the media and with the public."
What do you make of that?
ROGERS: Listen, you know, today in thousands of courtrooms, someone will be trying to impeach the government investigation. They will go after police detectives. They'll go after FBI agents and DEA agents and try to undermine their credibility.
What we're seeing here is this very public display in a way that I've certainly never seen, where the president of the United States is trying to do exactly that in the court of public opinion. He wants to damage the investigation before it ever gets there.
Listen, as a legal defense, that probably makes a lot of sense. As the leader of these organizations, as Alisyn was talking about, that are out there doing tough work, as in catching MS-13 gang members, it's really devastating. And that's -- that's the part where I think most Americans are a little bit taken back about the viciousness of which they are attacking.
It doesn't matter me at all that the president would try to find the most market-savvy word in order to do the most damage. That's kind of who he is and what he's been successful at.
And so we're finding ourselves right in that. The problem is now you've sucked in the Gang of Eight and all of these people who are going to handle what -- I don't know what the FBI is going to give them or the Department of Justice. But they're going to handle some of the -- see some of the most very sensitive information where it actually could get someone hurt or killed or it undoes other investigations, it undoes other operations around the world somewhere.
[06:15:18] I mean, these are really serious, complicated things. And it's not to be made political. That's why you have to approach these things with a nonpartisan way. And you have, I would argue, one of the two most partisan, at least on the Republican side, investigators trying to approach this in a way that is not helpful to actually finding the truth.
CAMEROTA: And of course, the unintended consequence of --
GREGORY: We have to remember --
CAMEROTA: Hold on, David. I just want to get to this. Of demeaning the FBI, which would mean -- honestly, this has a ripple effect. Then, in Long Island, when you're trying to fight MS-13, do people want to trust the FBI agent who comes and -- you know, knocking on their door asking for help? You know, there are all sorts of consequences. Go ahead, David.
GREGORY: Well, there -- and there is misconduct. Right? There could be misconduct by law enforcement, by local police, by the FBI, by the Justice Department. There could be an abuse of power or discretion. We've seen that in the past, wrongful prosecutions. All of these things, of course they happen.
But you have -- you have a group of individuals here who are -- have been appointed by this president or somebody in Rod Rosenstein who is -- is a bipartisan guy and has those credentials, who has backed the president up in his criticism of Jim Comey, initially in the handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation.
And now, again, it goes beyond congressional oversight, and it goes into a kind of bullying when they should be able to do their jobs. Again, come back to first principles. Don't we want to know if the Russians were interfering and how they were doing it? Isn't that what we have our FBI, to get to the bottom of that? I can't believe believe people want to somehow give that a pass. CUOMO: You know, we put up that quote, because it's important for
people to know the president knows what he's doing. He's picking words to make it worse. He's going after things that threaten him politically, because it works in his self-interest. It's not about insuring the sanctity of these institutions. You have to know that. You have to know where he's coming from.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for being here this morning. Appreciate it.
Jared Kushner questioned for his second time by Mueller's investigators, we're told, for seven hours. What did they ask him about? We're going to discuss this next. And at the end of it, he got back top security clearance. It's a good day for Kushner.
[06:21:13] CUOMO: All right. Jared Kushner's personal lawyer tells CNN that Kushner was interviewed twice. All right. And the second time was in April, and it may have been for as long as seven hours.
His lawyer says Kushner was questioned about potential Russian collusion, contact with foreign nationals during the transition and obstruction-related issues. So really, everything that's supposedly, on the table.
Let's bring in Mike Rogers, and let's bring in CNN legal analyst and Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the DOJ, Michael Zeldin.
One of the favorite opportunities on this show is to tell me that I'm wrong. But Mike Rogers, I say that's a good day for Kushner. If he sat with Mueller's guys not once but twice, men and women, and maybe for seven hours. But forget about the duration. And after that he got back his top security clearance, that's a good day for Kushner. Those have to be related somehow, don't they?
ROGERS: Well, they do. So in order to get that cleared -- now, there's two ways to do it. The prison could have overridden any objections along the way. Or they could have said, "Hey, we're not holding up the investigation." When I say "we," the DOJ and the other folks who would go through the clearance check process.
So anyway, I think it was probably a pretty good day for Kushner. It means that we didn't find anything substantial that he was doing that was inappropriate and to the level that would hold up his clearance. And he is operating within the White House. He really should have that if he's going to operate at that level. There's a whole, you know, debate around should be in the White House. But he is, he's providing counsel to the president. And he's dealing on some pretty sensitive issues. He should have his clearance to do that job. And I thought it was, as you said, it was a pretty big day for him. That means he got through all the questioning. There was nothing there that they saw that would hold up the fact that he should have his clearance approved.
CAMEROTA: Michael Zeldin, how do you see the fact that he had his security clearance restored?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Pretty much the same way as Chairman Rogers does. It's not permanent. These things change. Remember Abbe Lowell was asked by Wolf Blitzer yesterday, "Did Mueller say that your client was a witness?" And he sort of scoffed at the categories of witness subject, target, to say that those terms change all the time. But as of yesterday, it was a good day. We'll see where the investigation goes.
CUOMO: Where does the investigation go, Mike?
ROGERS: You know, I don't know. It's very interesting. So the Manafort investigation seems to center around what activities he was doing in his business prior to the campaign. And I'm sure some of that bled into the campaign. And the relationships he had overseas, including with the Russians. And so that's where the investigation is going after the first set of witnesses are called to clearly demonstrate that he was not being honest on his filings about being the agent of a foreign government. And so I don't know where the page turns.
I will say at some point they do have to wrap this up. You cannot continue this investigation, I don't believe. You know, they're engaged in the other parts of it, the things that they found wrong that weren't related to where the Russians were. At some point they have to come out and say this is what we found with what the Russians were up to, and it may or may not have was implicated the president of the United States.
I get a little worried we're going to get -- we're going to get caught in the drama and the politics of all the other things that they found during the investigation, including with Michael Flynn and not focus on what the real core of it was, what were the Russians up to in the election? And, by the way, did any campaign purposely and intentionally benefit from those activities?
Again, if we get to the end of 2018 and beyond, and this thing is still going on, I think it is so disruptive to the normal functions of what we do in the United States government, including the FBI, and the CIA and others. Again, this is going to -- it's interesting news. I have to admit. But boy, at the end of the day, how much damage are we doing to our institutions to prove our points here? And I think we have to wrap this thing up.
[06:25:18] CAMEROTA: Michael, that brings us to the question of whether the president will sit for questioning from the investigators. Because that seems to be one of the keys to how quickly Mueller can wrap this up.
Rudy Giuliani, the president's newest attorney, is all over the map on this about whether the president wants to, whether he should, whether he's going to, whether he's not. Yesterday he said BuzzFeed this.
"Giuliani said that a decision had not yet been made about the special counsel interview and that the president and his legal team are probably not going to make a decision until more of the facts are in. He later said that those facts include knowing more information about Trump's recent allegations that an FBI informant who reportedly had contact with three Trump campaign officials constituted or was part of a major spy scandal."
How convenient. This is a new -- here is a new wrinkle that they can hang their hat on for why they don't want an interview, Michael.
ZELDIN: Right. And I have come to disregard Rudy Giuliani's fact- free media tour. I don't believe that he is part of the negotiations with Mueller. I do not believe he knows the facts or the law to undergird the decisions --
CAMEROTA: Well, wait a second. He's the person who was hired to be the liaison -- sorry to interrupt you, but he was the person who, as we understand, was going to be the liaison with Mueller. So why don't you believe he's part of the negotiations?
ROGERS: Because he's not acting as a lawyer in this case. He is not functioning in that capacity. He is a public relations media storm.
No lawyer, in my estimation, would be out there saying the things that he's said, that he was informed about the nitty-gritty of the negotiations between Mueller and the real lawyers on this case. The Raskins, Emmet Flood, Jay Sekulow and the people working with Jay's team. Those are the people who are negotiating the terms and conditions. They are the ones who know the facts and the law and not Giuliani.
So I just -- I've come to the point of disregarding what he says. It may be valuable from a P.R. standpoint, but I don't believe it relevant from a law standpoint.
CUOMO: Right, but unless everybody is lying, Rudy is part of the negotiations of what's going on with Mueller's team. So let's see where they lead.
I know you don't believe it, Michael. I know you know some of the other lawyers who are involved.
ZELDIN: I don't believe it.
CUOMO: I'm just telling you, that's what we're told. So until we have proof of otherwise, we've got to -- we have to at least include that in that part of the analysis.
But gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate the take, as always.
ROGERS: And Chris, enjoy our time sleeping in in the mornings.
CUOMO: Thank you very much. I'll see you at night. You're not getting away from me that easy, Mike Rogers.
We love love on this program.
CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you for reminding us.
CUOMO: You have now become the love --
CAMEROTA: The love correspondents.
CUOMO: That's good.
CAMEROTA: I am the love person.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
Meanwhile, now to this top story. North Korea, it's lashing out at comments made by Vice President Mike Pence, calling them ignorant and stupid. Could the latest war of words derail further the upcoming summit with President Trump? A live report next.