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Giuliani Continues Attacks on Mueller Probe; Pompeo Meeting with North Korean Official in New York. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired May 31, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The circumstances around James Comey's firing.
[07:00:05] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He actually did have Russia on the brain. And he wanted to craft the narrative around that.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The FBI did exactly what citizens would want them to do. It has nothing to do with Donald Trump.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Clearly, there's still cause for concern. We're going to continue to follow the issue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is doing everything he can to make sure people never trust the FBI.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former spy chief Kim Young Chol sat down for dinner with Mike Pompeo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guy who arguably should be indicted as a war criminal.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we can be successful in denuclearization.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
CAMEROTA: Still sounds good.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Still sounds great.
Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is now clear for everyone to see that the president and his allies are like Lucy, trying to pull the football on the Russia investigation and, really, not just that. They're looking to tackle the kicker.
Overnight Rudy Giuliani calls the special counsel investigation a lynching mob but says that this lynching mob better finish his investigation by September 1 or that would be unfair.
CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has turned over a confidential memo to the special counsel that he wrote about James Comey's firing. McCabe reportedly details a conversation he had with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the days after Comey was fired.
According to "The New York Times," McCabe was concerned that Rosenstein was providing a cover story for why President Trump fired Comey. And in just hours from now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet again with North Korea's former spy chief. What are they promising each other? Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Joe Johns. He is live at the White House. Another busy day, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
Really, some fascinating new details adding to the knowledge about the Mueller investigation's search for the truth as they look at the interactions between the Justice Department, as well as officials at the FBI after the firing of former 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.
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: 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's 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 undermine 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 campaign 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 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: So what is he saying now?
GIULIANI: There's 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 before 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 former FBI director 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, Rosenstein said 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 (R) 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.
JOHNS: Now, this morning here at the White House the president is expected to set out in just a little while for Texas. He's expected to attend a pair of fund-raisers there in Dallas and Houston. He's also expected to meet privately with family members and victims of that recent school shooting in Santa Fe.
[07:05:05] John and Alisyn, back to you.
CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much for all of that. Let's discuss it.
We want to bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. He is the former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the Justice Department. Michael, that's why I want to start with you. You know Robert
Mueller's mind. You know how he is inclined. So when Rudy Giuliani says this about a date, how does Mueller respond? Listen to Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: He'll file his report by September 1, mid-September, he's going to be doing a Comey.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So will he fire him if he doesn't file the report?
GIULIANI: I don't think he's going to fire Mueller. Mueller is creating his own problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Michael, when he says he has to file by September 1 or mid- September, obviously, Robert Mueller is not going to file before it's ready. But what is his response when he hears things like that from the president's lawyer?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he just ignores it, as well he should. Rudy Giuliani does not set the timetable for this investigation. His wishing doesn't make it so. Mueller will issue his report pursuant to the regulations when he's decided that he has no more investigating to do. Full stop. That's what it will be.
And if it is such that the investigation is ongoing and they get into this window right before the elections where, if they were to issue a report they might be deemed to have an impact on the election, then he'll hold the report until after the election.
So I think that's what is Mueller's point of view and Mueller's timeline. And Rudy Giuliani can say whatever Rudy Giuliani wants to say, and he'll end up getting booed in Yankee Stadium again.
BERMAN: You went to Michael Zeldin first for the law, but the fact is this isn't about the law. This is just pure simple politics and P.R. that Rudy Giuliani is playing here, John. And the thought that just losing the football here. They're just trying to create as many barriers as humanly possible for this investigation to run smoothly. And then, if it does run, they're trying to smear it the best they can.
AVLON: Right. And Rudy is -- Rudy has admittedly -- to your point, Rudy has said this is about the court of public opinion. If it goes to impeachment, that's a political process. Therefore, public opinion matters. And Rudy's job is sort of to create a lot of distraction and deflection, which is a classic Trump tactic.
I think, look, as you all know, I worked for Rudy Giuliani for many years. I have a lot of respect for him and what he did in New York City as mayor and have a lot of affection for him. But this statement about a lynch mob, in particular, goes way beyond the line. Rudy Giuliani knows better. He has spent a lot of his life in the Justice Department --
CAMEROTA: Yes? Then why is he saying it if he knows better?
AVLON: Because I think he's trying to defend his client and this is the kind of language his client wants to hear. But he demeans himself in the process, and he knows better than this.
That language, he crosses a line to me. Sort of the storm troopers comment crosses a line. Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. Attorney knows better. And Robert Mueller, as much as they're trying to demonize this investigation when they use the 13 Democrats, Robert Mueller is a Republican. And -- and when he was appointed, a lot of Trump's proxies and supporters praised the appointment. So let's not get spun up about this.
CAMEROTA: And by the way, the people have given money to Democrats and to Republican candidates. We have the records. So suffice it to say that they are all Democrats, and that they all have given to Democratic candidates. That's just also --
BERMAN: Not true.
CAMEROTA: Also on your analogy --
AVLON: Go on.
CAMEROTA: Lucy moves the football, she's moving it closer to Charlie Brown with this, in this analogy. Because he's moving the date closer to when we think Mueller might ever be ready. We don't know if September 1 he'll be ready by. Is that what you mean by moving the football?
BERMAN: It's a metaphorical football, first of all. I'm not saying it's a physical football right now. I think what I was suggesting, just making it harder for them to do it. Just making it harder for the Mueller team to do its job. It just seems that everything that they're doing right now is to gum up the works and muck it up.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I understand.
BERMAN: Because if he wanted to finish -- if he wanted to finish the investigation, you know how you do it? You send the president into speak to Robert Mueller. You send the president in to speak --
CAMEROTA: I guess. If we're not that point.
BERMAN: They have been asking for a month.
CAMEROTA: What do you think? You're the expert here.
BERMAN: He thinks I'm right. His silence there is an affirmation of me being correct, clearly.
CAMEROTA: Obviously, if Mueller were done, we would know the results. So what's he waiting for? ZELDIN: Well, I think he's got aspects of the investigation that he
still needs to wrap up. We haven't heard anything from Mueller on the hacking of the DNC or Podesta yet. That's a thread that still needs to be, you know, pulled to its conclusion. And we don't know what's going on with the real lawyers, because Giuliani is not one of them. He's a P.R. guy.
The real lawyers and Mueller in the negotiations for an interview. Because I believe there will be an interview one way or the other. Whether they fight it, you know, in the context of a grand jury subpoena and lose in the courts or whether they acquiesce and have a voluntary interview. It's not until that interview occurs that Mueller is in a position to wrap things up.
[07:10:11] If you look at the Whitewater investigation, after the interview, it took Starr about 23 days to file his final report. And this is not going to be different in this case either.
CAMEROTA: That's interesting.
BERMAN: Something else has been going on, consistently going on, and that's the president attacking the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, yesterday here. We read the president say that we wished he had appointed a different attorney general, nominated a different attorney general.
Overnight the president tweeting out comments from Joe DiGenova, his one-time almost attorney, that he made on FOX News: "The recusal of Jeff Sessions was an unforced betrayal of the president of the United States." Joe DiGenova, former U.S. attorney.
Listen to what Mike Mukasey, who was a Republican attorney general, said about these attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE MUKASEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's inane. It serves no purpose whatever. It doesn't help the president. And he's essentially attacking him for something that he was obligated to do. To recuse himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: It's inane. John Avlon.
AVLON: And look, I mean, you know, Mike Mukasey, who's very close with Rudy Giuliani historically, and has a lot of kind words to say about Donald Trump, is absolutely right in calling this inane.
I mean, you know, Jeff Sessions, you know, his recourse is a little unclear. You going to file a hostile workplace claim against the president? But it is -- it demeans everyone involved. And the president, you know, for whatever emotional catharsis he gets attacking his attorney general in public, he's not helping his case. And it's just -- it's just not a sign of a character that we typically have in the Oval Office. It's a surreal circumstance that we've begun to accept as normal.
CAMEROTA: Hey, Michael, what -- yes, quickly?
ZELDIN: I was going to say, the one thing that also doesn't strike me as sensible is that, at the time of the -- what's the word? Confirmation. When he was confirmed, Sessions, it was February 8. All of this stuff about an investigation was really not fully mature at the time of his confirmation. I don't think Sessions or the president or anyone else knew where this was going so that they could have recused themselves.
CAMEROTA: I'm so glad you're making that point. The timeline doesn't work. I mean, he would have had to have been psychic to see what was happening.
ZELDIN: That's true.
CAMEROTA: And yet the president ignores that. The time line has never made sense.
BERMAN: For instance -- for instance, you know, Rod Rosenstein never wrote a letter supporting the firing of James Comey until after Jeff Sessions already recused himself. And this is very much in the news overnight, Michael Zeldin. Because "The New York Times" reporting Andrew McCabe wrote a memo saying that he had talked to Rod Rosenstein. Rod Rosenstein said the president wanted Russia, wanted Russia to be part of the written justification for firing James Comey. What does that tell you, Michael.
ZELDIN: Well, it's complicated. Because remember, on the weekend of May 4, the president is in Bedminster, and he is wanting to play golf with Greg Norman, but it's raining. And he's fuming. And he has Steven Miller write a letter for him to justify the firing of Comey. And that is a diatribe against Comey, and Russian and the refusal of anyone to, you know, recount in public that he is not a target.
When he gets back from that weekend, he shows it to McGahn, the White House counsel. And McGahn says, "There's no way you can send this letter." And I think that same thing went forward to Rosenstein, and Rosenstein said, "There's no way you can say this." And they ultimately pared it down. And Rosenstein's, you know, clean letter is that which was, you know, put forth as the initial justification.
So I don't read a lot into what McCabe is saying as, you know, a new revelation. I think this was the same old revelation, that the president wanted to be exonerated publicly in -- from the Russia probe.
ZELDIN: And he was getting Miller and McGahn and Rosenstein to try and say that. And none of them -- well, Miller, except Miller -- but McGahn and Rosenstein refused to do it. And that's -- that's what this is about. AVLON: But -- but you know, look, I mean, Trump wanting to be exonerated is the most innocent explanation. What you have here that's new is a contemporaneous memo by McCabe, which creates a deeper fact pattern for the -- problem for the president.
And McGahn also saying -- again, standing up for the president's worst instincts and impulses. But it could also provide additional evidence about intent and obstruction. And that's the deeper problem for the president about these latest revelations.
ZELDIN: Maybe. Maybe.
ZELDIN: Maybe, except that McGahn acknowledges in one of these "New York Times" pieces that the president said to him he recognizes -- he, the president, recognizes -- that the firing of Comey may actually extend this investigation, rather than cut it short. And so if he's got the notion that, "I'm going to fire this guy, and it's going to extend it," that's not obstruction.
BERMAN: We've got to leave it there, guys. It also raises questions for Rod Rosenstein, by the way, who was told that Russia was part of the reason for firing James Comey. You know, could he be a witness? Does he have possible things to testify to, to the president's mental state? Who knows?
[07:15:03] CAMEROTA: What I heard Michael Zeldin saying is that, had it been a sunny day on the golf course, we might not be here. It was raining that day, and that's why they wrote the letter.
BERMAN: Novelist and attorney Michael Zeldin. Also, it smelled like lilacs at that time.
CAMEROTA: Wow. Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. All smiles so far as North Korea's top former spy and secretary of state Mike Pompeo meet in New York. What will the conversation be like this morning when they get down to business on a potential summit?
[07:19:26] BERMAN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean former spy chief Kim Yong Chol will meet in just hours here in New York. This will be the highest-level talks between the United States and North Korean on American soil in nearly two decades.
Overnight, Secretary Pompeo welcomed Kim Yong Chol, showing off some views of the New York skyline, having this friendly, opulent meal here.
Joining us now is Gordon Chang, columnist for "The Daily Beast" and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World"; and CNN politics and national security analyst David Sanger. Gentlemen, I want to talk about what's going to happen today. But
first, let me start with what happened last night. If you could put those pictures back up of the dinner, pictures clearly, the secretary of state wanted sent out. This friendly meeting, this friendly handshake, gazing out over the New York skyline. The toasts over dinner. And the secretary released the menu, which included, I believe, steak and I don't know what else.
David Sanger, when you see these pictures, David, what are the implications here?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICS AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: John, they're quite remarkable, because Kim Yong Chol has a long history. He's been known to American officials for a long time. He actually has worked for all three Korean leaders: Kim Jong-un's grandfather, the founder of the country, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-un's father. And now for the younger Kim.
But more remarkably, he ran the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is the closest thing that the North Koreans have to a CIA, at a time that they both sank a south Korean ship that killed more than 40 people, and ran the cyber operation that ultimately got into Sony Studios in retaliation for a movie they were making, a comedy that envisioned Kim Jong-un's assassination and basically brought down the entire studio and melted out a good number of their -- of their hard drives. So he's a pretty tough character.
But he's also the right one to talk to. Because if you're going to convince anybody within the leadership that they've got to go give up nuclear weapons, he's going to be the one. It's just I think most people who know North Korea doubt he's going to be really willing to do that.
BERMAN: Yes. And if you're the head of Sony, you may not be toasting quite as easily as Mike Pompeo did right there.
SANGER: That's true.
BERMAN: Gordon, what does Kim Yong Chol need to give up, do you think, to make this summit happen? Or conversely, what does Mike Pompeo need to give up?
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": Well, first of all, congratulations. Now you're going to have to wake up really early.
BERMAN: Perfect, thought, for North Korean coverage.
CHANG: Yes. In order to get the summit, I think that they need to make a pledge to give up all their nuclear weapons and all their ballistic missiles. And I hope that President Trump is as good as his pledge to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and gets a pledge from the North Koreans to account for the Japanese abductees.
Three big items on the agenda. You've got to remember, John, that up until now, the North Koreans have been the only ones making concessions. They released the three Americans. They made denuclearization pledges. We've done nothing. But as soon as Kim Jong-un is photographed next to President Trump, that's a big win for the North Koreans.
CHANG: Because we're going to see that picture for decades if the North Korean regime survives.
So in order for the United States to walk away from that summit with our heads held up high, we're going to get the North Koreans to have to make pledges that they thought they would never make, plus verification. Because it's one thing to make a pledge to give up weapons. It's another pledge to actually say, "Look, I'll let you inspect.
BERMAN: That's a very good point, David Sanger, that Gordon makes right there. For the North Koreans, the goal is the meeting. It's not what comes out of the meeting. So getting in there, you have different aims from different sides right there. You know, Gordon suggesting that the North Koreans need to make a pledge to get all -- need to say "We're going to get rid of all of our nuclear weapons and missiles." Saying we're going to do it, though, how much does the United States actually have to believe it to sit down, David?
SANGER: Well, they've said that before.
SANGER: And they said it to the South Koreans in 1992. They said it to -- I'm sorry, in 1992, they said it to the Americans, in 1994. And they've done it many times since.
I actually would add to Gordon's list. Everything on Gordon's list is right. But on top of that, they would have to establish a system under which they're getting rid of all of their production facilities for nuclear material. Basically, what Iran agreed to do for 15 years and which the president said was insufficient, the North Koreans would also have to do in perpetuity.
And then you have the question of what do you do with the thousands of nuclear engineers and missile engineers who are living in North Korea? And there are a lot of people, including in the U.S. government, including in the CIA that Mike Pompeo ran until a few months ago, who believe you actually need to move those people out of the country so that they can't reconstitute the program.
So President Trump has got a big order here. Because he's not only going to be judged by getting more done than his predecessors; he's got to get more done than was done with Iran. And the Iran deal was pretty comprehensive on the question of getting rid of production facilities.
BERMAN: Just to give people a sense of what's happening right now, there is an enormous amount of activity all around the world to make this summit happen. You have this meeting here in New York today between the secretary of
state and the former North Korean spy chief. Over in the Demilitarized Zone, you have meetings between a former U.S. ambassador who is seen as being key to knowing what North Korea wants to do. And then you have logistics folks in Singapore actually hammering out the physical details of how all this will happen. Which frankly, leads me to believe -- I'd be shocked if it doesn't happen at this point. There's just too much in motion, and both leaders have too much at stake.
[07:25:07] And I guess what I don't understand, Gordon, is why won't North Korea just promise the world? And then whether or not they deliver it's a whole different issue. Promise the world to get the photo. And then you can do what you want on June 13.
CHANG: There are a couple of reasons why Kim is constrained in what he can actually say. And one of them is he's got a lot of generals left over in North Korea who are not very happy with all this.
But I think even more important, Kim, by having these summits, not only the one with President Trump but also with Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president on April 27, he's created expectations inside North Korea among the poorest. And these people want a new life.
Also, you've got the dong-ju (ph), the moneyed class. Those are people who want to see an openness. And Kim is really constrained right now on what he can do.
BERMAN: Fascinating to see if he really does have accountability to his own people.
Gordon Chang, David Sanger, thanks so much. A lot more to come in the coming days -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, John. The president making it clear he is still angry with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian probe. Does this affect Sessions's ability to do his job? We have former attorney general Alberto Gonzales to weigh in on that next.