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Trump Unleashes on Mueller Investigation; Giuliani Public Opinion Strategy; Trump Junior and Foreign Contacts; Memorial Day Ceremony; Alberto Makes Landfall; Flooding in Maryland. Aired 1:00- 1:30p ET

Aired May 28, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: If you include the people who worked for Obama for eight years, hashtag spygate and conflictsofinterest.

CNN White House reporter Jeremy Diamond is joining us live now.

So, Jeremy, the president actually tweeted about the Russia probe in the middle of tweeting about Memorial Day and honoring the fallen. Give us the latest here.


Well, the president is now back at the White House. But this morning he was at Arlington National Cemetery honoring the fallen in service of this country. He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and talked about those who have died in sacrifice, in service to this country as having a love more deep and more pure than most will ever know.

But amidst all of this, the president is also continuing to tweet about the Mueller probe, continuing his efforts to undermine that investigation. We saw him this morning once again renewing his claims that there was somehow a spy planted in his campaign by the Obama administration. Claims for which there is no evidence, of course. The only thing that we do know is that there was an informant, a confidential informant who helped the FBI in its investigation. But there was no spy planted in the Trump campaign, at least no evidence of that.

The president also, as he tweet about Memorial Day, not just making it about the troops, but making it also about himself. As we saw his tweet saying, best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for blacks and Hispanics ever, rebuilding our military and so much more.

So the president there saying -- referencing the fallen troops, but saying they would be proud of his accomplishments as president so far. So, clearly, the president today honoring Memorial Day, but it has not stopped him so far from continuing his attacks on the Mueller investigation and touting his own accomplishments.


KEILAR: Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thank you so much.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is defending efforts by the president's legal team to discredit the Russia investigation. Giuliani claims the basis for Robert Mueller's investigation is invalid. He points to the memos written by fired FBI Director James Comey.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: You get the Comey thing, which is a leak of a confidential memo, which is illegal for an FBI official do, and that becomes the basis for appointing Mueller. I'm not saying Mueller is illegitimate. I'm saying the basis on which he was appointed is illegitimate.


KEILAR: I want to bring in CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Shan Wu to talk with us here, along with CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez.

Shan, what do you make of that, of Giuliani saying that the basis for Mueller's investigation is invalid that this memo was released?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's really just more posturing on Giuliani's part. I mean there's obviously been not much success in court making that point. The Manafort team has repeatedly tried to make that point, both in a civil suit, as well as in a motion with the criminal case. And that's just not meeting with any success.

KEILAR: So it's really -- it's a political message basically to discredit the investigation?

WU: Very much so, along the lines of him finally admitting that it's really a PR strategy.

KEILAR: And speaking of -- I mean Giuliani admits that, right?


KEILAR: He was talking to Dana yesterday on "State of the Union" and he's talking about how really the goal here is to sway public opinion with these attacks on the Russia probe. Let's listen to what he told Dana.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: We're defending -- to a large extent, remember, Dana, we're defending here, it is for public opinion because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So our jury is the American -- as it should be, is the American people.


KEILAR: Rudy Giuliani is unusually transparent about some things. Maybe his inside voice becomes his outside voice when he's talking about things. But he's admitting this is the strategy.

PEREZ: This is the strategy. And, look, I mean, I think what's clarifying actually from his statement there is that what he's saying is that he expects that Robert Mueller's finding, whatever we find out what Robert Mueller found out in his investigation, it's not going to be good for the president. It's going to be very bad. It's going to paint him in a very negative light. Possibly especially on the question of obstruction of justice, which is what he seems to be particularly focused on. Giuliani is.

And so they're jumping ahead to the public opinion and to members of Congress. This is going to be probably after the midterms. And the question of whether or not there's going to be an impeachment proceeding, I think that's -- you heard him, that's exactly what he is now fighting. They're starting early on that strategy. On that -- basically to undermine the investigation, to make sure that whatever Mueller finds, it can be delegitimized.

KEILAR: Shan, let's talk about the president's son, Donald Trump Junior, because the Democratic -- Democratic senator from Delaware, Chris Coons, says that Trump Junior has not been forthcoming about efforts by foreign powers to help his father's campaign. Here's what the senator said.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I'm concerned that in reviewing the transcript of Donald Trump Junior's questioning by staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that there's a clear tension between his firm answers that there was no efforts by a foreign power to provide assistance to the Trump campaign, and recent reporting that there were meetings that he participated in where representatives of Gulf states were offering some assistance to the Trump campaign.


[13:05:23] KEILAR: What do you think about the senator's concerns there? Should he have these concerns? Are these -- are these valid concerns? And do you think Trump Junior will come back to testify?

WU: Well, I think Donald Junior definitely has a problem. I mean that transcript has him clearly saying in the negative that there was no contact or efforts made by foreign entities to offer assistance. And, in fact, that's exactly contradicted by those meetings where he's meeting with an emissary from the UAE, as well as from the Saudis.

I think he definitely needs to make an effort to reconcile that. His lawyers could try to have him do a written amendment to it rather than expose him again. And, frankly, his tactic should be, I'm a businessman, I'm not familiar in this realm, and I just was speaking too sloppily here. And give him a chance to amend that, otherwise he faces actual criminal culpability.

KEILAR: So that's -- the argument there is, it's sort of an ignorance defense, right?

WU: Yes. Right.

KEILAR: It's like a defense of ignorance. Is that something that will fly, or do you think that he could really face some trouble, Shan?

WU: Technically, he's already committed the 1,001 false statements violation. But I think if he were to try to reconcile that, they might decide, well, you know, that type of explanation is not really worth going after him for it.

KEILAR: Evan, what are you hearing from your (INAUDIBLE) source?

PEREZ: Look, I mean I think it's -- I would just -- I think differ a little bit. I think, you know, the messiness with which these guys were operating at the time -- if you remember after the campaign, during the transition, I think, you know, some of his answers have been less than clear, but I don't know that you have enough here to bring charges against him.

I think Shan is right, that his lawyers can simply send a letter saying, look, we want to clarify what he meant. And I think that would solve the problem by and large. But, look, I mean, we can't learn about more meetings and more things because these guys have repeatedly not been forthcoming when they were given the chance. So that's the issue for them rite large, is whether or not they've been forthcoming, I think.

KEILAR: Yes. All right, Evan --

WU: I --

KEILAR: Sorry, go on, Shan.

WU: I was going to say, if I was his lawyer, I certainly would not want to expose him to more live questioning.


KEILAR: Yes. He struggled, as we seen now from the transcript.

Shan, thank you so much. Evan, really appreciate it.

Across the country today, Americans are taking time away from picnics and politics to reflect and remember. This Memorial Day is a chance to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

President Trump took part in ceremonies today at Arlington National Cemetery, where he paid tribute to the families of the fallen and he honored several living veterans in the audience.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us from Arlington.

Barbara, what more did we hear from the president?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, he talked a lot about, you know, service and family.

But I just want to point you behind me for a minute. That is -- through that crush of people back there, at section 60 here, is retired General John Kelly, President Trump's chief of staff and four- star Marine himself. He has come here to his son's grave, Lieutenant Robert Kelly, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. You may remember that General Kelly brought President Trump here last year. The president not visiting section 60 after the ceremonies, but General Kelly spending a good deal of time here right now at section 60, talking to military families, meeting some of the young people here, meeting some children who are here.

So it is quite a moment because, as you just said, Brianna, for these families, today is not about politics. It is about remembering their loved ones. And anything really that can be done to help remember them is something that these families cherish.


KEILAR: And, Barbara, just tell us about some of what you've seen today. It's really amazing. I remember going last year, seeing the wife of someone, a fallen soldier there and she was laying next to his grave, under an umbrella. The way you might enjoy an afternoon with someone you love. I saw some guys with who had beers who were honoring their friends. I mean it's really -- it is really an amazing sight to behold.

STARR: We -- we have -- we have come here -- CNN has been here almost every year. And I don't think we'd want to be anyplace else because we see that American military family spirit.

And that does include the battle buddies. They often come and, shall we say, they leave at the grave site of their friends an adult frosty beverage. We see families come, huge groups of families, and maybe just a mom and dad, they come, they put up a patio lawn chair, they have a cold bottle of water and they spend the day here graveside visiting their loved ones. It's so important to them.

[13:10:15] And let me share two things. When I got here early this morning, a gold-star mom, who I've seen year after year here, came up, gave me a hug, said good morning. And I said to her, you know, remind me. I know I met you very soon after your son was killed, but I don't remember what year that was. And she said to me, my son died 13 years ago. So we have -- we have been here to visit with these families.

We met another family, a huge -- the Bunting family. You may have seen some video we had of them earlier. Great grandmother, 94 years old. The youngest member of the Bunting family here today, a seven-month- old baby that was just born. They are here every year because Bubba was the real light of the family. He died in the war. And his young widow is here. I met her here graveside when she was pregnant. Her son is with her today. He's an eight-year-old little boy running around.


KEILAR: Oh, my goodness. Barbara Starr, thank you so much for sharing that for us.

Barbara Starr live from Arlington National Cemetery.

And President Trump is facing some blowback after putting out a Memorial Day tweet that some are calling very tone deaf. He wrote, "Happy Memorial Day. Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for blacks and Hispanics ever, and women in 18 years. Rebuilding our military and so much more. Nice."

Joining me now, we have CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

What did you think when you saw that tweet?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Brianna, I was very disappointed. I mean basically to take Memorial Day and to put the economy into that and to, in essence, talk about things that are praise-worthy from his perspective, from the president's perspective, from a political standpoint, is just not wise. Memorial Day is a sacred holiday. It is the holiday where we remember the fallen, the people that have sacrificed so much, as Barbara was pointing out at Arlington.

And this is, you know, this is just something where you look at that and you just say, no, there has to be a separation between what we do on Memorial Day in remembrance of those who have fallen, and what we do in our day to day political lives.

KEILAR: When I think of other presidents, I -- I struggle to imagine any tweet coming out from any other person that would have "happy Memorial Day" exclamation point, and then an endorsement, really, of his policies by thousands of war dead, which is an impossibility, right? I mean this is a very diverse group of people, and they are not here to speak for themselves. And then his saying, "nice," exclamation point. I mean this was -- this is unlike anything we've seen.

LEIGHTON: It is absolutely unlike anything we've seen, Brianna. And the issue here is not so much, you know, the fact that he probably wanted to say something nice about Memorial Day, the issue is the appropriateness of everything. And the fact, you know, as you pointed out, that all of these people who have sacrificed so much, they really can't speak for themselves. They would not necessarily endorse these policies on a person-by-person basis. But what they would do is they would say, we love America, we have defended America, and we have helped make it the country that it is today. But we did that with all of our comrades in arms.

KEILAR: How do you approach this day, colonel?

LEIGHTON: I look at it from a variety of different standpoints. My family has served this country in different capacity all the way back to the revolution. I have a direct ancestor who was a revolutionary soldier, a guy named Aaron Leighton. And supposedly he served from Bunker Hill all the way to Yorktown based on some of the records that we've seen. I have another member of the family who was a great, great grandfather of mine, who served in the Civil War. And then my father served in both World War II and Korea. So I see it very personally because it means not only the sacrifice that these people made, all of whom luckily survived their respective wars, but it's also something that binds us as a nation. I see it as something where you take the -- the types of sacrifices that you have from these individuals and, you know, small microcosm of those sacrifices and then you multiply by all of those -- all the millions of veterans out there and you say, yes, we have created something really good in America, but it should not be politicized. It should be celebrated for the fact that these people did what they needed to do at that particular moment in history.

KEILAR: Colonel Leighton, thank you so much for being with us and for sharing your personal story with us.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Brianna.

KEILAR: I didn't know that and I was glad to learn that. Thank you.

LEIGHTON: Thank you.

KEILAR: So even though the president canceled his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, the president is suggesting it's back on. We'll have some new revelations there.

Plus, the Trump administration under fire after losing track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children. So where are they? We'll discuss that.

[13:15:06] And it's being called a once every thousand-year flood. And this city's had two of them in two years. Look at this chilling video. And we'll talk about the incredible search and rescues going on near Baltimore.


KEILAR: Happening right now, Subtropical Storm Alberto is expected to slam ashore on Florida's panhandle in the next hour or so. Parts of South Florida have already been drenched. And some 2.5 million people are under a tropical storm warning. Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi are all under a state of emergency at this point in time.

And CNN's Nick Valencia is covering this in Panama City, Florida, for us, where Alberto could be making landfall soon.

What are the conditions like there?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there Brianna. We thought we were going to get a brief break in the rain. We did. But it's just come back even stronger than ever.

We've been out here all morning long keeping our eyes on those waves that have just been so dramatic (INAUDIBLE) ebb and flow. The highest they've gotten so far that we've seen, probably about 15 feet, halfway up on that pier.

[13:20:07] It's not keeping the crowds out. It was just a short time ago, right before we went on air, right before this rain started, we saw a lot of people on the beach. Locals saying that they've seen a lot rougher conditions in the time that they've lived here.

For what it's worth, the Bay County Sheriff's Office has not put in place any mandatory evacuations. There is a voluntary shelter in place right now for those that don't want to ride this storm out by themselves.

They are very concerned, though, about the gusts of wind. And there's a chance for about 50 mile-per-hour sustained gusts of winds. And just as I say that, here comes the wind, and here comes the rain. It's starting to sting a little bit. This is definitely not a warm beach day. But there's still plenty of people out here, sightseeing, people that are having their vacation time here, Memorial Day weekend. And the locals here, of course, saying that they're not going to let a little bit of rain ruin this wonderful holiday.


KEILAR: All right, Nick Valencia, thank you so much, for us from Florida.

I want to go now to Maryland. This is the site of a devastating flash flood. Water just roaring through the streets of Ellicott City. This is just outside of Baltimore. There were cars that were washed away, some buildings even collapsed. And at this point, at least one person is missing.

I want to go to Suzanne Malveaux there.

And we're going to -- Suzanne, tell us what you're seeing.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have some information about that missing person, Edison Herman (ph). He is 39 years old. And friends say that he was trying to help a friend rescue a cat when he got swept away by the waters. He is still missing now. They are searching desperately for him.

But I want to show you, Brianna, here what we've been looking at all morning and through the night. This over here behind me was a parking lot. And you can see that the street just buckling there. The water coming up from underneath those pieces, looking like puzzle pieces in the parking lot. They were removed -- have sent -- plucked all of those vehicles that were stuck in the mud that were out here. And you can -- just if you follow me here, debris that is just scattered everywhere as the force of the water took over these businesses on the first level there, all of them just across the way. And then what they've been doing throughout the morning is removing -- you can see this dumpsters, the blue dumpster in the background, the trees toppled, as well as trash, all of that being plucked out of the ravine earlier this morning.

And then also, last night, yesterday, there was a wedding here, Brianna. You see (INAUDIBLE). Our producer Liz Turrell (ph), had a chance to talk to them about the wedding. Well, they had a chance to say their vows, but not the reception. Water was rising so quickly. They grabbed their heels, a lot of them, and just went running.

Now, I've had a chance to talk to a lot of people who -- here who experienced just the fear and the panic as this happened so quickly. I want you to listen to this woman here. She was in the tea room

celebrating a late Mother's Day celebration when they told them to evacuate.


KATHLEEN SENYARD, RESCUED FROM FLOOD: You could just see it. It was so violent. It was just rushing the whole time. And we were all trying to decide, what do we do next, you know? And so trying not to have everybody panic. And we're in this little room. And then it subsided a little. And then it started rising again. And finally, it receded enough that the first responders broke down the door and helped us out.


MALVEAUX: And since the governor, Larry Hogan, he's just announced in the last hour they're going to be using emergency resources for any people who need assistance with rentals or renovations or these type of things. But the Howard County executive, who I also spoke with earlier today, said he can understands if businesses and if people don't want to come back and invest here because it has been so devastating. And, as you know, Brianna, this happened two years ago when they had another historic storm. So this is the second time they have seen such devastation. This time, worse. 30 rescues overnight and many, many people now without property, without homes, and they are certainly trying not to have without hope.


KEILAR: Suzanne Malveaux in Ellicott City, thank you so much for that report.

Coming up, a U.S. delegation in North Korea this hour trying to resurrect the on again-off again summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump. So is the summit back on or not? We'll discuss.

And China awards Ivanka Trump several new trademarks for her business brands in recent months, raising ethical questions. We'll have some new reporting from CNN ahead.


[13:38:42] KEILAR: Now to the latest cases of political whiplash. The on again-off again summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. It's not officially back on yet, but both sides seem to be moving forward with preparations. Right now there is a U.S. delegation that's meeting with North Korean officials on the northern side of the demilitarized zone, and another U.S. team is making preparations at the planned summit location in Singapore.

To discuss this, I'm joined now by former U.S. ambassador to China, also a former longtime democratic senator from Montana, Max Baucus, with us.

Ambassador, I mean, you've heard this, the president, he called off the summit on Thursday, but then in his comments and tweets over the weekend he's suggesting that it could very well still happen. That this could go ahead as scheduled. What do you -- I guess, how do you see this playing out?

[13:29:33] MAX BAUCUS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: Well, I, frankly, think, because this is Memorial Day, it's important for all of us as Americans to kind of sit back, reflect, and just remember how lucky we are to be Americans. Just think of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have died for our country, for our values, our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, our rule of law, and also established the United States after World War II as the -- basically the western world leader. Countries look up to us. So as we work to try to denuclearize North Korea, it's important to keep in mind that we are the leaders, we have our values, and I hope the Singapore summit proceeds.