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Clash with House Republicans; Trump Wants Withdrawal from WTO; Trump Pressured Macron. Aired 6:30-7:00a ET
Aired June 29, 2018 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:31:44] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: A fiery hearing on Capitol Hill pinning House Republicans against two of the nation's top law enforcement officers. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray fighting back against repeated attempts to discredit the Russia investigation.
CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House with more.
Abby, good morning.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica.
It was a heated, testy exchange between the president's hand-picked and Republican Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and his hand- picked Republican FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Take a listen to some of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: It's redacted.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am the deputy attorney general of the United States, OK? I'm not the person doing the redacting.
JORDAN: You're the boss, Mr. Rosenstein.
ROSENSTEIN: That's correct. And my job is to make sure that we respond to your concerns. We have, sir. Now, I've appointed Mr. Loush (ph), who is managing that production. And my understanding is, it's actually going very well, sir. So I appreciate your concerns and I understand --
JORDAN: Again, I think the House of Representatives is going to say otherwise.
ROSENSTEIN: But you're use of this to attack me personally is deeply wrong.
JORDAN: Why did you --
Rosenstein, did you threaten staffers on the House Intelligence Committee? Media reports indicate you did.
ROSENSTEIN: Media reports are mistaken.
JORDAN: Well, now, who are we supposed to believe, staff members who we've worked with who have never misled us, or you guys who we've caught hiding information from us, who tell a witnesses not to answer our questions. Who we supposed to believe?
ROSENSTEIN: Thank you for making it clear it's not personal, Mr. Jordan.
JORDAN: Well, I didn't -- I'm saying the Department of Justice.
ROSENSTEIN: You can believe me because I'm telling the truth and I'm under oath.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: At one point in that exchange, when Jim Jordan accused Rosenstein of threatening folks on the committee, Rosenstein fired back in an exchange that prompted laughter from the audience. It just goes to show how hot and heated those exchanges between Republicans and the president's own administration have gotten.
But this is all about the Mueller probe. And take a listen to what Trey Gowdy was saying to -- to Rosenstein about wrapping up the probe and trying to get to a conclusion. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We've seen the bodies. We need to see the evidence. If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury. If you have evidence that this president acted inappropriately, present it to the American people.
There's an old saying that justice delayed is justice denied. I think right now all of us are being denied.
Whatever you've got, finish it the hell up, because this country is being torn apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Now, some people have called out the hypocrisy of Trey Gowdy being the one to question Rosenstein in that way. It was too long ago that he led the Republican investigation into the Benghazi attack. An investigation that lasted two and a half years, cost $7 million, and resulted in no convictions, no guilty pleas, and no indictments. By contrast, the Mueller probe has been going on for a little over a year now and there have already been four guilty pleas and over a dozen indictments.
So this investigation is getting heated up, especially between Republicans and the president's Department of Justice. But, clearly, the Department of Justice is willing to fight back. Erica and John.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the one-time campaign chair, Paul Manafort, is behind bars this morning awaiting two separate trials.
[06:35:02] Abby Phillip for us at the White House this morning.
Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, FBI Director Christopher Wray, did they debunk the list of Republican conspiracy theories about the Russia probe? We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Did you threaten staffers on the House Intelligence Committee? Media reports indicate you did.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Media reports are mistaken.
JORDAN: Sometimes this is what they said, having the nation's number one law enforcement officer threaten to subpoena your calls and e- mails is downright chilling. Did you threaten to subpoena their calls and e-mails?
ROSENSTEIN: No, sir. And there's no way to subpoena phone calls.
JORDAN: Well, I mean, I'm just saying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Ouch! That one left a mark.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pushing back against attacks from House Republicans during that heated hearing yesterday.
I want to bring back in Phil Mudd, who's with us, and also CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian.
Thanks so much for being with us.
Phil, before we go down, you know, the meticulous questions we would like to ask you, I have to leash the Mudd here. You've been jumping -- you've been jumping out of your seat at the chance to talk about this hearing. What did you see?
[06:40:04] PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Put a red nose on those circus clowns and put them in the big tent.
Let me tell you something. For the history of this country, we've told countries, tin-pot dictatorships that tell their judiciary this is what cases you're going to open, this is how you'll open the case, and this is how you prosecute political opponents. We call these dictatorships and we call them tin-pots. In this country, we said in the Hillary Clinton investigation, this is how we want to investigate it. This is what the charges we think you should bring, and this is how you should adjudicate a case in public to declare somebody guilty. Politicians are saying that.
We transition to the Trump issue and people are saying, in this case, we want to see the evidence so that we can leak it and corrupt the investigation. We want to tell you what charges you should or should not bring. And we want to tell you how long this investigation should go on despite the fact that we don't even know what's happening in the investigation because Robert Mueller doesn't speak. That's a bunch of circus clowns.
BERMAN: So you don't think it went well for the Republicans on the hearing is what you're saying?
MUDD: Well, if you want to understand how the Congress works and why people like me can't stand them, yes, it went really well. I'm sorry, at 6:41 a.m., my day's over.
HILL: I think you're only just getting started, let's be honest.
JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
HILL: It is -- it is remarkable, though. And this is, obviously, far from the first time we've seen it. And it is not just one side of the aisle that does it. But the grandstanding that we see in these events, John, which, frankly, even if losing the point of anything there because there's so much focus on who can get a dig in and who can talk the longest.
AVLON: Right, it's not about pursuit of the truth.
AVLON: It's about scoring partisan points. And it really does diminishes our institutions. You know, we've seen grandstanding in previous congressional hearings in different eras. It doesn't look good in the rear-view mirror of history. And that you had Rosenstein, who's a man who's trying to -- he's under oath. He's trying to tell it like it is. He's become politicized and a bit of a lightning rod for reasons that he did not desire. And on the other side you've got a bunch of congressmen being bullies and hypocrites. I mean Trey Gowdy walks a difficult line. And he's done some good things and some difficult things. But for him to say, get the damn things over with when the Benghazi inquiry took two and a half years, that's the height of hypocrisy. That is situational ethics and it demeans the search of the truth and it shows that that is not what this is about.
BERMAN: And, Karoun, it does seem as if Rosenstein and Wray, whether they set out to or not, systematically debunked a lot of the charges you have heard from Republicans, or at least tried to debunk them, number one. This has gone on too long, as John Avlon was just saying, the comparison to Benghazi is obvious. And Rod Rosenstein basically said it will go on as long as it has to.
On the idea that perhaps he has a conflict of interest and he should have recused himself, Rod Rosenstein said, believe me, if I could, I would. I would like nothing more than to not be doing this. And then the idea that he's hiding something from congressional
investigators. He said, I'm not the one redacting here. We have given you thousands and thousands of documents. This is the way it works.
Now, again, it did seem like an attempted, systematic debunking, Karoun.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, look, this is -- Rod Rosenstein did take the gloves off and he kind of calmly just kept shooting down each one of these points when people were saying, look, this is -- this is more about you than it is about Mueller. You've proven to be hiding things from us. We are -- you know focusing on you in this one. And he just kept, point by point, shooting all of those allegations down.
It's not actually, though -- look, this is a microcosm of what's been going on for a long time, that you've had the House GOP looking at the DOJ, trying to get these documents, trying to pinpoint Rosenstein as a figure that this can all kind of stick to. And Rosenstein doing this behind doors for the most part and now being out in the open.
And you've got -- you know, it's a real standoff between the Republicans in the House and the DOJ that's bound to continue, though, because you had, during the hearing, the House of Representatives pass this resolution, which is just saying, Rosenstein, we want these documents by July 6th. That suggests that even though leaders kind of wanted to stop there, that there are going to be members of the House who were going after Rosenstein in that hearing who are going to want to go after him harder, whether it's with contempt or whether it's by trying to get floor time for the articles of impeachment that they've drafted. This is probably not done.
So Rosenstein's going to probably have to continue to defend himself in this way. And the question is, is this enough to make higher ups in the party, because it really was being driven mostly by the rank and file Jim Jordans on that panel. Is that going to be enough to have him say, OK, hold on, we don't actually want to go quite this far --
DEMIRJIAN: Or is this actually going to be escalated in future rounds because the politics definitely will be. Well, the practical stuff with the DOJ as well?
BERMAN: Well, Karoun -- what are you hearing, Karoun, because that vote yesterday in the middle of the hearing, that was a stunt.
BERMAN: I mean that was designed in a way to publicly shame Rod Rosenstein. And Rosenstein said there, come on, guys, this isn't going to change anything we do.
DEMIRJIAN: Right. BERMAN: So do you think it might have an impact, Rosenstein's testimony, on Paul Ryan, who -- who's enabled, to an extent, the Jim Jordans of the world?
DEMIRJIAN: I mean the Paul Ryans of the world have kind of tried to let the air out of the tires with letting the Jim Jordans and Mark Meadows have their moment. I don't think the speaker really wants to take this fight all the way to the mat. And the question is going to be how parliamentary wise -- using different sorts of procedures -- do -- how far do those members push it. It seems like you're going to have a clash within the GOP before you have the next round of a clash with the DOJ, if it comes. But that's been a long time in coming. So we're bound to see it happen.
[06:45:22] BERMAN: All right, Karoun, Phil Mudd, who's going to go get some chamomile tea then and just rest for a bit, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
HILL: Still to come, does President Trump want to undo international alliances? There is new reporting this morning.
HILL: Two new reports raising eyebrows about President Trump's America first policy. "The Washington Post" reporting that in a private meeting in April, the president pressured French President Emmanuel Macron to leave the E.U. Well, Axios this morning is reporting President Trump is talking to top aides, and has been for some time, about wanting to withdraw from the World Trade Organization. Remember, back in 2016, he called it a disaster.
Joining us now to talk more about this is John Negroponte, former director of national intelligence and a former deputy of state, also former U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
[06:50:05] Always good to have you with us.
When you hear these two reports, number one, the pressuring reportedly of the French president to leave the E.U., in which he reportedly said, I'll get you a deal with better terms, and pulling out of the World Trade Organization. Where is this sending this country and diplomacy?
JOHN NEGROPONTE, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Right. Right. Well, first of all, I -- you know, with Mr. Trump, it's not always that easy to discern the substance from the style. He's got a particular rhetorical approach designed to shock people at times, keep them off guard. He seems to value dealing in uncertainty and in the unexpected.
My impression during the first year and a half of his administration is that despite a lot of the rhetoric, we seem to have stayed with most of these institutions. We've reaffirmed our alliance with NATO. We've certainly cooperated with Japan and South Korea on this whole North Korea question.
So I think that, you know, the returns aren't in yet. And it isn't over.
I think it's important that the president will be going to -- have a NATO meeting in Brussels and then also going to England and will have meetings with the prime minister and the queen and so forth before he has his meeting with President Putin in Helsinki. I think that way, at least, we can have some confidence that he will know what the message his -- our European allies would like him to convey to the Russians. Whether he does it or not is another question, but at least --
HILL: Well, that's the key, I think, is to whether he does it or not.
NEGROPONTE: Yes. Right.
HILL: Because it's not as if he doesn't know what the message should be in many cases, whether it's coming from his own cabinet talking to him or batting cleanup for him or whether it's coming from other world leaders. The issue is what this president decides to say in the moment.
NEGROPONTE: Well, I can certainly remember in the campaign my Mexican friends, after all he's hauled off after Mexico a number of times and NAFTA and so-forth. And I had been ambassador to Mexico at one point. They would ask me, well, you know, does he really mean what he says? Well, he's said some pretty tough things and offensive things about Mexico over the months. But at the same time, we still have NAFTA. Here we are a year and a half out.
So, again, as I say, this is not the easiest presidency to read. And I fear that we're going to have to, you know, continue with this kind of uncertainty as time goes on. And hopefully some of the stray rhetoric, if you will, doesn't do too much harm to these very important relationships.
I do not see Mr. Macron leaving the E.U. France is a pillar of the union. And I don't see us leaving NATO.
HILL: But there is -- but these are -- no, that may not happen. But the bottom line here, too, is, we're now a year and a half in and, yes, this president does things differently. And he will say, look, I'm trying things, right? I am going to meet with Vladimir Putin. I meet with Kim Jong-un. I'm working on things. And, look, yes, meetings are important. Summits are important. But how much longer can this rhetoric, this, I'm throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, how much patience is there, specifically when we look at the E.U., among European leaders?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I think in western Europe there may be a certain amount of frustration. And I think that Mr. Trump has a particular thing about western Europe. I don't think his difficulties are as much with the eastern European countries who, generally speaking, seem more favorably oriented towards the United States.
But let's take the Russia trip, for example -- or the Russia meeting, for example. I think it's important that there be a summit. And I have no problem with that. Presidents, over the years, had summits during the time of the Soviet Union and thereafter. And this is one of the five permanent members of -- of the U.N. Security Council. It has nuclear weapons. We need to talk to Russia and we need to talk to them on a regular and steady basis. So I have no problem with him trying to cultivate that relationship with Mr. Putin.
Again, I think it's important that he goes armed with the latest thinking of his -- our European partners when he goes into that meeting.
HILL: Armed with the thinking of the European partners.
There's also the question of the thinking of Americans back home and the fact that U.S. intelligence has said very clearly that Russia meddled in this election, that there was a purpose to it. The president, as recently as yesterday, just before the plans for this summit on July 16th were announced, saying, once again, Russia keeps saying they didn't meddle. The chances of him bringing it up, probably the odds in Vegas, slim to none. But how important is it that it actually come up in that meeting?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I don't know about the odds, but I read where Mr. Pompeo said that the president would raise it. And he would say that that kind of behavior was completely unacceptable.
I think one of the reasons the president talks the way he does about that issue is he doesn't want anything out there that undercuts the significance, the political significance, of his victory in 2016.
[06:55:07] And, secondly, let's be fair, Mr. Mueller is still doing his investigation. But we all spend a lot of time trying to anticipate and second-guess what -- what results he's going to come up with. So, you know, I think I'd rather wait and see what Bob Mueller has to say about all of that.
HILL: It will be interesting to see in that -- you know, Secretary Pompeo also saying earlier this week, he's not trying to reset the -- he's trying to reset the liberal world order, not dismantle it. It will be interesting to see whether or not dismantle any trust.
Always appreciate your insight. John Negroponte, thank you.
NEGROPONTE: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right, "The Capital Gazette" is out this morning in Annapolis, Maryland. Out, published, despite the fact that five of its employees were shot dead in the deadliest attack on journalists in the U.S. since September 11th. And there is a heartbreaking tribute we will show you on one of the pages. Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
[07:00:02] BERMAN: So, good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joins me now. John Avlon here as well.
Five shot dead, but "The Capital Gazette" will not be stopped.