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Giuliani Calls Mueller's Team a 'Lynching Mob'; Gowdy Upends Trump Conspiracy Theory. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 31, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: He shouldn't testify. The whole thing should be squashed.
[05:59:26] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A newly-disclosed memo offering insight into President Trump's firing of James Comey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is, does this all add up to obstruction of justice?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's simply attacking him for something that he was obligated to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has a right to hire and fire the attorney general.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: He wants somebody who's going to be a loyalist to him, not somebody who's going to be a loyalist to our Constitution.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: You can't take a clearly racist tweet and condemn it. You're at least saying, "I don't care."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he really is in a spotlight now to talk about this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's the president of all people. And damn it, I wish he would start acting like it.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
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 31, 6 a.m. here in New York. How are you?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm doing great.
BERMAN: I just had crumb cake.
CAMEROTA: Yes, your wife's crumb cake, I think, is going to come in handy. This is going to burn a lot of calories, this show.
BERMAN: Yes, exactly. That's what it's designed for. Weight loss from cake.
Here's our starting line. New day, new White House attempts to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, now setting a red line for Mueller to release his results by September so as not to get too close to the midterms, Giuliani says. But what if the investigation is not complete by then?
This comes as Giuliani calls Mueller's team a lynching mob in a new interview.
And former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, has turned over to Mueller's team a confidential memo that he wrote about James Comey's firing. McCabe details a conversation that he had with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the days after Comey was dismissed. And McCabe was reportedly concerned that Rosenstein was providing a cover story for why the president fired Comey.
BERMAN: Yes. Does Rosenstein have a conflict of interest here because he knows the president was thinking about Russia when he fired Comey? Might Rosenstein have to recuse himself here?
Meanwhile, a make or break day for the U.S. and North Korea in terms of their summit, very shortly. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with North Korea's former top spy. This is the highest-level North Korean official on U.S. soil in nearly two decades. Can they seal the deal on the summit?
And when Roseanne Barr makes a racist comment about Valerie Jarrett, who really deserves an apology? Well, of course, President Trump, at least according to President Trump. Because no one is more victimized by this racism than a 71-year-old white guy. Actually, it's clear the racism doesn't actually bother him. He said nothing about that. So what is he really saying here?
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
What we have here are some fascinating new details about the interactions between top officials at the Justice Department as well as the FBI in the days immediately after the firing of FBI director James Comey.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, setting a red line for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, urging investigators to wrap up their probe ahead of the midterm elections.
GIULIANI: Well, he doesn't file his report by September 1, mid- September, he's pulling a Comey.
JOHNS: Giuliani telling reporters that he doesn't think Mr. Trump will fire the special counsel, although a source tells CNN President Trump and his team are going to continue to use the investigation as a political weapon heading into election season.
GIULIANI: So you've got a group there that is a lynching mob. We'll let the American people decide this.
JOHNS: Republican Oversight Chair, Congressman Trey Gowdy, undercutting the president's latest attempt to undercut the Russia probe by claiming that the FBI planted a spy in his campaign.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The fact that two people who were loosely connected with the Trump contain may have been involved doesn't diminish the fact that Russia was the target and not the campaign.
JOHNS: The White House continuing to push the debunked claim but providing no evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given what Trey Gowdy has said, is the president prepared not to retract his allegation that the FBI was spying on his campaign?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No clearly, there's still cause for concern that needs to be looked at.
JOHNS: Giuliani also telling reporters that Attorney General Jeff Sessions's job is safe for now, despite the president's escalating attacks over his decision to recuse himself from the investigation.
GIULIANI: There's no doubt he's complained about him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is he saying now?
GIULIANI: No doubt he has some -- some grievances. I don't know if they've aired them out yet, but he's not going to fire him this is over. Nor do I think he should.
JOHNS: Mr. Trump endorsing the characterization of Sessions's decision as "an unforced betrayal of the president of the United States," after lamenting that he wished he had picked someone else for attorney general.
All this as a previously undisclosed memo written by Andrew McCabe offers new insight into the circumstances surrounding the firing of James Comey. A source tells CNN the memo details a conversation between McCabe and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. During that discussion the president asked him to reference the Russia investigation in his letter recommending Comey's termination, according to McCabe's memo. Rosenstein did not comply and focused his letter on Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey. I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
JOHNS: "The New York Times" reports that McCabe feared Rosenstein helped provide President Trump a cover story for the FBI director's firing.
[06:05:09] JOHNS: That memo now in the hands of the special counsel's office, according to reporting by "The New York Times." A chance to get a question to the president about the latest developments coming this morning as he heads out to Texas. He'll be participating in fundraisers in Houston and Dallas.
Alisyn and John, back to you.
BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns at the White House, thanks very much.
Joining us now, CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN legal analyst Laura Coates.
John Avlon, Rudy Giuliani says the Mueller team is a lynch mob, but this lynch mob better finish its job by September, or else it will be an unfair lynch mob?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. We're deep in the mixed metaphors territory. I mean, but look, Rudy calling this investigation lynch mob is beneath him. It is pathetic. It is not consistent with his career as a prosecutor. He knows better, and it's disgraceful to invoke lynch mob in this circumstance.
Second thing is, Rudy Giuliani is clearly, admittedly, playing the court of public opinion. But he has no ability to set a deadline on the Mueller investigation. This is not the shock clock's going to run out on September 1, folks. This is going to go on as long as the Mueller investigation needs to go. And as a former U.S. attorney, Rudy Giuliani knows that full well.
So I don't think this hyperbolic play to the court of public opinion stuff, this is designed to appeal to his base. But it really is beneath him and doesn't comport with reality of the investigation.
CAMEROTA: Laura, it does feel like that September 1 arbitrary date is just more spaghetti that they try to throw at the wall to see what sticks in terms of undermining the Mueller investigation. We hear it, it feels like, every day some sort of new effort at why it's not legitimate or why we should be suspect of it.
However, on the flip side, does Giuliani have a point that after September 1, it does get dangerously close to somehow tainting the midterms and that Mueller does need to be aware of the date of the release? I mean, maybe holding it until after the midterm elections. What about that?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think Mueller is already aware that there are standing DOJ regulations that was first in place by Mukasey and then rubber-stamped by Eric Holder because it was so universally accepted. You don't want to interfere, have any sort of investigation interfere in an election.
I don't think that Mueller is enlightened by the statement that Rudy Giuliani has provided for him. I think he was aware that he had to do it before or wait until after. But the irony of this is the reason why there has been a delay, perhaps, in concluding the investigation, at least the part involving Donald Trump, is because Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani refuse to actually meet with the investigative team. And so if they were to meet with him, say, right now, perhaps that deadline may be actually possible.
Because they continue to say they have no intention or they are waffling or that there are so many contingencies and caveats that are self-serving and gratuitous, it can't possibly be done.
And I do think it's true to say that his comments about a lynch mob are perhaps beneath someone. But if Rudy Giuliani is who he has become, then I think it's on par with who he actually is at this moment in time. Either way, they're running out of synonyms to describe this paranoia the president seems to have. Whether it be a witch hunt or a lynch mob, either way, there is an investigation going on, and they continue to implicate themselves in their own actions.
BERMAN: One thing I will note is Giuliani has already said storm troopers, already called the FBI people who raided Michael Cohen's office storm troopers. Once you go storm troopers, lynch mob is right there. You know, it's right there, you know, in the same offensive dictionary book right there.
A couple other quick points here. September 1, Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware, yesterday, also told us that he thought it would be inappropriate for Mueller to come forward with findings or release things after September 1.
CAMEROTA: It makes sense. I mean, it makes sense. I mean, it does get close to the election mind-set.
BERMAN: Democrats -- Democrats definitely have some trepidation here.
The other thing I'll mention is that I believe -- over the last few days, we've heard a lot of things of Comey and timing. Pulling a Comey. I think maybe the White House and the people inside the administration close to it are telegraphing what's going to come out in this inspector general report from Horowitz on the Clinton investigation, e-mail investigation. The parts that could be released soon.
Maybe they have some inkling about what's coming out here, and they're trying to merge those two things. So stay tuned. Stay tuned for that. Just some foreshadowing.
John Avlon, there's another aspect of this if we can turn to -- these continued attacks on the attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Seemingly, out of nowhere, yesterday during our show yesterday, the president tweeted that I wish I had hired someone else. Overnight he's putting out this tweet, quoting Joe DiGenova, former U.S. attorney who was at one point almost his lawyer, says, "The recusal of Jeff Sessions was an unforced betrayal of the president of the United States."
What does he get out of this? I mean, there can't be a possible legal advantage to this.
AVLON: No, no. This is pure emotional catharsis somewhere on the level of "Mean Girls." This is not a legal strategy. And in fact, we know the danger's a little more profound, because we know from reporting earlier this week that, actually, Jeff Sessions has been interviewed by the Mueller problem in ways that could have a -- create a real problem for Donald Trump, i.e., Trump asking him, "Unrecuse yourself, in effect, because I want you involved."
"Eric Holder would have protected President Obama," he said, "so that should be in place for me, too."
[06:10:05] The obstruction pattern does not look good for the president. And attacking and victimizing and humiliating his attorney general in public, that may be a personal, you know, quirk of the president. That may feel good for him, but it's not going to help his legal defense.
AVLON: Avlon just said that the president's trying to make "Fetch" (ph) happen. That's basically what he just said there. That's why that happened.
CAMEROTA: Thank you for that translation.
Laura, what about that? Asking Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself, which is a new verb, is that obstruction? Does that play into obstruction?
COATES: Well, now we have "bigly." We have "unrecuse." You've got a whole vocabulary now because of the president of the United States. In and of itself, it's not obstruction in isolation.
And the reason for that is, usually obstruction cases are developed based on a pattern, or practice and behavior that suggests a motive. If you don't already have one that's outright and said, it's trying to establish what the the motivation for doing so? And what it really suggests to you is we have all been thinking up until now perhaps the statements and the firing of Jim Comey is where the investigation about obstruction would begin. But that clock actually predates that now and suggests that perhaps it was the fact that the president felt compelled and his intent was made clear by the fact that Jeff Sessions recused himself and then he took on the enormous burden of trying to have a way in this investigation.
And so I think it puts the clock back further. It gives us further illumination on what Mueller is thinking is. And by the way, it doesn't take much for Mueller to be able to figure out that Sessions's recusal is one of the prompting of what led the president of the United States to do the activity he did. But it's about that overall pattern that's important. BERMAN: We have one new nugget, right, one new bread crumb in "The
New York Times." "The New York Times" reporting overnight that Andrew McCabe, former deputy director of the FBI, wrote a memo that said that Rod Rosenstein, who was then the deputy A.G. told him -- follow the game of "Telephone" here -- that the president wanted him to include Russia, wanted him to use justification, Russia as a justification for the firing of James Comey when Rod Rosenstein wrote his initial memo criticizing James Comey. We did not have that detail, John. That is a new detail.
Apparently, Andrew McCabe, according to "The New York Times," felt as if, you know, Rod Rosenstein was trying to provide -- or may be providing cover for the president there. But you know, this idea we now really do seem to know that Russia was what the president was thinking about, notwithstanding the fact that he told us that.
AVLON: I mean, the first fact pattern is that he said it and contradicted the White House talking points and the official rationale.
CAMEROTA: When somebody tells you something, you should believe them.
AVLON: Yes. I think that's generally a thought pattern we should follow by now. You know, remember, the original cover story, which was absurd on its face, was defending the honor of Hillary Clinton and the republic from Jim Comey really letting her down during the campaign. I mean, it really -- and then Trump sat down with Lester Holt and said, "Yes, that was Russia." This new fact pattern, I think, is important, though. You've got multiple contemporaneous memos. People in law enforcement being so concerned they write contemporaneous memos.
In law enforcement, directed actions to the president, being so concerned that they write a contemporaneous memo. That is a proof point that is not going to be easy to ignore, and you can't spin your way out of it. And the fact that Rosenstein was apparently asked by the president to invoke Russia and didn't is significant. A, it establishes a degree of intent. And then the question whether Rosenstein was providing a degree of cover for the president, all troubling facts.
CAMEROTA: Laura, does that make Rosenstein now compromised?
COATES: I think he was always compromised in a way, Alisyn. Because of course, his -- his memo that was written in light -- in large part with Jeff Sessions, was also always used as a cover for the president, although the president, in his Lester Holt interview, was very dismissive of that. Because he always had you it in his mind, regardless of what was recommended to him.
I think he was always a little bit implicated and concerned about what his role would be and if he had done so. But the fact that we have that new nugget, about the fact that he wanted him to put Russia and chose not to does discuss more of the intent perhaps on the motivation of the president of the United States. And that's what compromises him more. It would be unfortunate for Rod Rosenstein to be conflicted out.
Because you'd be starting over the person who is overseeing Mueller's work and potentially having even further delay, which really would reinforce Giuliani's concern that it would put you closer to the midterm election. You can't just replace the person overseeing Mueller and expect it to be a seamless transition. It's probably a problem.
BERMAN: But it is a fascinating legal question. Rosenstein knew when he appointed a special counsel, if the story is correct, that the president wanted Russia to be the part of the reason for firing James Comey. He knew that at that time, apparently, he's talked to Robert Mueller, according to this article, asked Mueller, "Hey, is there a problem here?" Mueller hasn't said anything. So we'll see.
CAMEROTA: All right, Laura, thank you for helping us understand all of that.
John, thank you, as well.
So a top House Republican rebukes the president's spying narrative. Still, the White House continues defending the fact-free claim. Why? Is this working? We're going to dig in on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[06:18:49] REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK. That was significant. Because that was Republican House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, who has seen the evidence, defending the FBI's conduct in the Russia investigation. He's the one who got the classified intel briefing.
However, the White House continues to push President Trump's debunked claim that the FBI planted a spy in his campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given what Trey Gowdy has said, is the president prepared to retract his allegation that the FBI was spying on his campaign?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. Clearly, there's still cause for concern that needs to be looked at. Let's not forget that the deputy director of the FBI was actually fired for misconduct. The president is concerned about the matter, and we're going to continue to follow the issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: Back with us, John Avlon and Laura Coates. What does Andrew McCabe have to do with the price of tea in China?
AVLON: Nothing. Nothing. I mean, the inquiry that ultimately led to his suspension and firing, which was begun by Jim Comey was about a leak investigation in the late 2016 investigation.
[06:20:03] CAMEROTA: Stop using facts. Stop using facts.
AVLON: Facts keep getting in the way of the narrative.
CAMEROTA: I mean, it's been debunked. There is no spy. The FBI was doing exactly what the FBI does. This is their M.O.
AVLON: This is Trey Gowdy, poster boy for the conservative movement. Not Trump talking points on this, because the facts aren't in their favor. But this is a narrative they've been pushing. They threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall, as you say. But this is not working out. Trey Gowdy has seen the information and had the briefing. Not buying it.
BERMAN: I will say the other possibility is my theory is that they know the inspector general report on the Clinton campaign is coming out, the Horowitz report. Maybe they know what's in it. Maybe they're betting what's in it, and they think McCabe will provide some kind of guilt by association cover.
CAMEROTA: What does that have to do with this?
BERMAN: Listening to Giuliani yesterday, the I.G. report, all of a sudden, they're using these -- you know, pulling a Comey claims. I think they know something is going on.
Giuliani, you know, doesn't -- has a lot of talents when he's talking about things. We saw it during the campaign. We saw it now. Things don't get said for no reason. There could be some cognitive dissonance here, Laura Coates, for the White House and for the president.
He likes to watch FOX News to learn what he thinks about things, largely. And FOX News, one of his favorite sources on there, Judge Napolitano, basically told him that there's nothing to see when it comes to the FBI investigation. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: The allegations by Mayor Giuliani over the weekend, which would lead us to believe that the Trump people think that the FBI had an undercover agent who inveigled his way into the campaign and was there on a spy of the campaign, seem to be baseless. There is no evidence for that whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Again, it really does just seem that Giuliani and the president and his team are using this as a justification for not cooperating down the line with the Mueller investigation and sully the whole thing. Is there any other reason?
COATES: No. I think this is very difficult to ever explain and justify one's own paranoia, which is what is very apparent here. Remember the rule of three. He had Trey Gowdy say it. He had Napolitano say it. Now he needs the third person to work the charm. I don't know who that's going to be to finally tell him yet again there is no spy. Spygate was a narrative they're trying to promote to delay, unnecessarily, an interview with Mueller and their team. So it's very hard to reconcile those points.
What I also heard Trey Gowdy talk about is the idea that it was not about you, which is a theme that has happened since James Comey initially spoke to the president of the United States. And why hasn't the president been interested in a counterintelligence probe by the FBI, by others to say that Russia has tried to investigate and -- I mean, interfere, and that Russia has tried to influence our elections?
It's not particularly about him. It's about whether or not someone is trying to undermine our democratic institutions. And from James Comey's comments and his private dinners until now, you can still see the president hanging onto a theme with absolutely no substantive evidence to support it, other than his own, perhaps, paranoia and narcissism.
BERMAN: Kanye or Kim Kardashian. The third person could end up being there.
CAMEROTA: It could be Kimye. That's two people.
I think that there has been a third person and a fourth. I think that we've heard from Marco Rubio. I think we've heard it from Mitch McConnell. And nobody has said, "Oh, there was a smoking gun in this intel."
Mitch McConnell, obviously, demurred. He was more vague, but he certainly didn't seem to think that there was a headline in what he had seen in the intel.
AVLON: No. And these are people who treat the president too often with kid gloves, because they don't want to get in the way of sort of his machinations. But the facts don't stand up. Once you've lost Judge Naps, I'm not sure you can come back from that.
CAMEROTA: Let me tell you something. Judge Napolitano has not been in lock step with the president. He has been willing -- especially recently, he has been willing to call out, certainly, troubling things that he sees.
AVLON: Trouble in paradise, then, for the president.
CAMEROTA: There you go.
AVLON: What happened to the happy place.
CAMEROTA: I mean, we'll see what happens with Judge Jeanine.
AVLON: So Laurel, let me ask you about Michael Avenatti, who has been on TV a lot. Let's just say the last 12 hours. Before that had an interesting day in the courtroom. You know, the judge in the various trials involving Michael Cohen basically said you can either be a lawyer in this courtroom or you can be on TV. He chose TV.
But he also came out and said that there are recordings. We learned in the courtroom that there are recordings that Michael Cohen made. That could be legally significant. I want you to tell us why on that. But Avenatti is also saying that he believes that some of these recorded conversations are with the president of the United States. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What is on these tapes that the public needs to know?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Jake, our understanding is, is that there are countless hours of recordings of conversations between Michael Cohen and others, including Mr. Davidson. We also understand that the conversations include conversations with Mr. Trump. These recordings were seized by the FBI in connection with the raids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right. A, significance of recordings. B, significance of whether or not there was a recording of the president of the United States. And C, will we ever hear it?
[06:25:05] COATES: Well, A, it's not significant unless it actually bears on a case. The fact that there may be conversations about the gold-toed socks they're wearing that day, has absolutely no bearing on any investigation in New York and California or any other state hopefully. That's No. 1.
So without telling us, actually, what the substance is, saying he had countless hours of conversation with him, we already know that. He was the fixer. They had a very close relationship.
What is the legal hook that you want us to focus on? Without that, I can't give any credence. In terms of second part, about actually, the president of the United States, speaking to him. Remember, if the president was speaking to him and it had to do with criminal activity or some nefarious incident or anything else like that, it would only be covered by the attorney-client privilege if, one, they were actually acting as attorney and client and not having a simple conversation but made for the purpose of legal advice.
And No. 2, you do have the crime fraud exception that says it doesn't matter if they were acting as attorney and client if they were talking about criminal activity. So that would be significant for the president, if that's the case, and very troubling. And finally, will we actually hear it? Well, the judge has already
been particularly averse to have Michael Avenatti straddle the public opinion, of course, and the court of law. I doubt we'll hear anything that's not relevant.
BERMAN: Laura Coates, John Avlon, great to have you with us. Gold- toed socks, by the way, are a national security issue.
CAMEROTA: They must be.
BERMAN: So perhaps there is a hook right there.
CAMEROTA: There you go.
BERMAN: All right. In just hours, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set to meet with Korea's former spy chief right here in New York. Can they get this summit on track? The latest details next.