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Report: WH Insists Warning to Comey Not a Threat; Republican Leaders Shrug Off Comey Controversy; SNL Sean Spicer Surprises New Yorkers On Street. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 12, 2017 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you moving so quickly that your communications department cannot keep up with you?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes, that's true.

PIRRO: So, what do we do about that?

TRUMP: We don't have press conferences --

PIRRO: You don't mean that?

TRUMP: Just don't have them. Unless I have them every two weeks and I do it myself. We don't have them. I think it's a good idea. First of all, you have a level of hostility that's incredible. And it's very unfair. Sarah Huckabee is a lovely young woman. You know Sean Spicer. He's a wonderful human being. He's a nice man.

PIRRO: Is he your press secretary and today and tomorrow? Will he be tomorrow?

TRUMP: He's doing a good job, but he gets beat up.

PIRRO: Will he be there tomorrow?

TRUMP: Well, he's been there from the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: That was President Trump moments ago on Fox News addressing the contradicting statements on the reasons for firing FBI Director James Comey and on the current press secretary, Sean Spicer. So, I get to talk to David Axelrod today. He's our CNN senior political commentator in Chicago. Nice to see you, sir. Before we get into --

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: How are you doing, Brooke? Anything going on?

BALDWIN: Oh, slow news day. Nothing, really. Before we get to your Ax Files special tomorrow night. On this conversation about tapes and the questions to Sean Spicer today, are there any tapes? You know, conversation recorded between Comey and the President, we know that any kind of secret recordings in any white house has been off-limits since the Nixon administration. So, when you listen to Sean Spicer's response, the non-response, what did you think?

AXELROD: Well, I think that he, as he often is, was in a really difficult spot. And was instructed not to say anything beyond what was in the tweet. The interesting thing was him trying to convince people it wasn't a threat. It was just helpful advice to a departing employee, you know? A little legal advice for Mr. Comey. Obviously, it was a threat. And you know, the problem is not with the spokespeople, but they're in a constant game of twister, trying to contort themselves to explain the latest tweet or comment. He sent the vice President out there to tell a story and cut him off at the knees the next day himself. So, if Donald Trump has communications issues, he should start by looking in the mirror.

BALDWIN: Threw the whole white house under the bus, as Chris Cillizza wrote so well on cnn.com. Let's talk about you and your Axe Files special. You ask California Governor Jerry Brown about the story of the week, of the year, the James Comey firing. Here's part of your conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY BROWN, GOVERNOR, CALIFORNIA: I do think that Comey's public statements about the e-mails and Hillary was a very bad and unprofessional -- and he never even acknowledged it. So, I think Comey has real serious problems.

AXELROD: What about the timing of it?

BROWN: But that's the other point, that he asked for resources to investigate the Russia/Trump connection. So, yes, that smells. No question.

AXELROD: And where do you think this all goes now? Is this going to hang over Trump?

BROWN: Well, it's hanging over Washington, that's all they can think about. I would like to see the Senate restore some of its earlier luster, thinking of the great giants in the Senate in the past, and with truly bipartisan, Democrat and Republican. Let them investigate. I think that maybe you bring the house in, too. But Watergate was a lot -- the investigation there was driven by the House of Representatives and by the committees. So, I think they're capable if they can get off this circus of partisanship and polarization, which they seem addicted to, tragically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:35:00] BALDWIN: Circus of partisanship, David. Is it a circus of partisanship, or just the circus?

AXELROD: Well, I think there's an element of both. But, obviously, you've seen -- for the most part, there have been some outliers, but you've seen a lot of people kind of retreating the partisan sidelines. And you know, the most notable was Mitch McConnell, who basically stonewalled on the issue of whether there should be a special council or a special committee to look into this, as some Democrats and a few Republicans, John McCain, has suggested. And he was very stalwart in opposition to that. And I suspect he will be, unless the politics changes. But I'll tell you an interesting thing about Jerry Brown. There's a guy who was once about the youngest governor in America, 1970s. He's now the oldest governor in America. And his father was governor of California. And he's got an enormous sweep of history in his lifetime. It was interesting to hear him talk about how things have changed. And he's clearly a little wistful about days gone by, when Republicans and Democrats could work together. And he prides himself on that in California.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm. David Axelrod, thank you so much. We'll be watching your full interview with Governor Brown. "The Axe Files," a CNN special, airing tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. eastern.

We continue with the firing of James Comey, apparently not a massive topic of conversation right now at a big meeting of Republican leaders in California. What one member of their own party says they need to wake up. She joins me next.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Just into CNN, a massive coordinated cyberattack has targeted at least 74 countries in the last ten hours. This attack has instantly installed ransomware on computers across the globe. The program is demanding users pay hundreds of dollars in order to regain control of their computers. Of those affected, at least 16 in the last ten hours. This attack has instantly installed ransomware on computers across the globe. The program is demanding users pay hundreds of dollars in order to regain control of their computers. Of those affected, at least 16 national health services in the United Kingdom. One expert tells CNN the ransomware could likely spread to U.S. firms, as well. As we get more information, we'll keep you posted.

Meantime, obstruction of justice. A cover-up. Just as the President is facing extremely serious allegations on why he fired FBI Director James Comey, many in his own party are shrugging it off. Hundreds of Republican national committee members are gathering for their spring meeting this week, where they say James Comey's firing has barely been mentioned. So, is the issue being avoided? Is this apathy? Should more be discussed? With me now, CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro and Paris Dennard. So, Ana Navarro, first you. You know, you're calling out your party, right now, you're saying to Republicans, wake up!

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATORS: Mm-hmm. Look, I think Republicans have been asleep. I think they need to remember, especially elected Republicans, that their loyalty is to this country. It's to America. It's to the constitution. And I'm very troubled by the escalation of Donald Trump's behavior of President Trump's tweets. You know, look, if you want to go out there and billion an enabler and defend him when he's lying about inaugural crowds, when he's tweeting against Rosie O'Donnell, when he's tweeting against Meryl Streep or against Nordstrom's. If you want to go defend him when he's lying about 3 to 5 million undocumented having voted.

OK, go ahead and do that. But this transcends that. This is so much more serious. In a matter of one week, in a matter of four days, on one day, he was tweeting out an intimidation of sally yates, the day she was to testify in front of the Senate. And today he sent out a veiled threat, another intimidation of former FBI Director James Comey. We owe it to the professionals at the FBI, at the intelligence community to stand up and not allow this. Republicans cannot continue lacking the other way and enabling this. History is going to judge them oh, so harshly, oh, so harshly if more comes out. We need to stand up and defend the search for the truth above everything else. We cannot -- we cannot hand in a blind loyalty to a President, even if it's the President of our own party. That is not the duty of elected Republicans.

BALDWIN: Paris, as a Republican and someone who's been very loyal to the President, how would you respond?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think ANA is 100 percent wrong. And as someone who has worked at the Republican national committee with the members of the 168, who are our party faithful, listen, I spoke to one of the members, national committee women who is there right now, and she said, we are unanimously excited, optimistic, and focused, celebrating our victories and focused on 2018, because we understand full force that the history of first-term, mid-term elections are for Presidents. And so, they are laying the groundwork and the foundation and the infrastructure to continue to be successful, just as we were in 2016.

So, I would say to Ana, no, we're not asleep, we're wide awake. That's why we won this election.

[15:45:00] That's how we won the presidency, the house, and the Senate. We are awake and we are excited, motivated, and we believe wholeheartedly and members of the 168 believe that this President acted responsibly in the removal of Comey, because he lost faith in his ability to lead the FBI. He lost faith in him. A lot of Americans lost faith in him. Many senators did. And even there are Democrats who lost faith in James -- in Mr. Comey's ability to lead the FBI. So, we're not -- members of the 168 are not asleep. They're awake, they understand what's going on, but they don't care about the punditry of Ana Navarro. They care about the people who sent them there. The party faithful will come out to vote in 2018 to give us more electoral victories for the GOP.

BALDWIN: Ana, do you want to respond to that?

NAVARRO: No, I really don't. You know, first of all, I don't respond to personal attacks from colleagues. Second of all --

DENNARD: There was no personal attack.

NAVARRO: You know, what am I --

DENNARD: That was not a personal attack. NAVARRO: OK, you've said your piece. It's now my time. What am I

going to say to somebody who refuses to hear what's going on in our country? Do you think that Donald Trump's approval ratings are at 36 percent because people are not bothered by this? Do you think the credibility of the President is where it is and of the presidency because people are not bothered by this? Have you stepped outside of the beltway? I'm not in Washington, I'm in Miami, Florida, I'm traveling around the country and I can tell you people are very worried and so many Americans feel that this government is in crisis.

That this President thinks he is above the law. And Republicans need to send a clear message that that is not the case. We need to push for the search for the truth. We need to push for a resolution for this, for the good of the country. We can't continue living with, you know, in this society, where half the people, if not more, think this is an illegitimate President who got to power through collusion with the Russians. If that's not true, let's get it out. And you know, let's all be able to have some faith stored in the presidency of the United States.

BALDWIN: Got to go, with Ana and Paris. Thank you both very much for that. Not on the same page, but that's why we wanted to hear from both of you. Coming up next, Melissa McCarthy taking Sean Spicer out for a ride today on this moving podium outside the CNN offices here in New York. A comedy writer joins me live to tell me what's in store this weekend on "SNL."

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Press Secretary Sean Spicer back on the job as was his alter ego, actress Melissa McCarthy who is hosting "Saturday Night Live." Check this out. This is Melissa outside of our CNN headquarters here in New York just this morning. Motorized podium. You know, you've seen the sketches. I have the Peabody award-winning comedian. Apparently, she's just been spotted thanks to our contact over at 30 rock.

PAUL MECURIO, EMMY AND PEABODY WINNING COMEDIAN: She's the best.

BALDWIN: On the motorized podium. She's the best.

MECURIO: Gave me an idea to incorporate. I'll start a fleet of Sean Spicer pedi cabs and get a whole bunch of look-alikes and the slogan will be we'll get you there on time and angry. Like a game of frogger, jumping out from bushes. It's the best. Just writes itself.

BALDWIN: We don't know what they have up their sleeves for this Saturday. She the one hosting, but it's incredible to me how -- I'll never forget where I was when I first saw her, you know, as Sean Spicer and do you sometimes look at Sean Spicer and think Melissa McCarthy?

MECURIO: Melissa McCarthy does a better Sean Spicer than Sean Spicer.

BALDWIN: And we were looking at Bernie Sanders and how well Larry David pulled that off. MECURIO: Exactly.

BALDWIN: This is the video that "SNL" has released, the hair and makeup.

MECURIO: love her dimples. The forehead is exaggerated. Not even a forehead.

BALDWIN: Last question, Sean Spicer was back at the podium. On Navy reservist duty. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has stood in his place. Not giving enough material to late-night writers.

MECURIO: Opposite end of the spectrum, that southern charm.

BALDWIN: Yes

MECURIO: You know, when I hear her I want to have a mint julep and bet on horse racing. You know, that saying, it's not what you say but how you say it. She could say anything and it could be fine. Like I do declare we're at war with North Korea. All right. Let's play croquet. It's all good. Listen, the bushes thing is the best, that he was in the bushes. Is he a press secretary or a cub scout leader? What are we doing? This is the only press conference in the history of the white house where reporters walked away with poison ivy. We'll have a press conference. You bring the bug spray and I'll bring the s'mores.

BALDWIN: Jay is laughing at you. That's good. We got a laugh.

MECURIO: Always a pleasure. Thank you so very much.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, NBA hall of famer and personal friend Charles Barkley talked to me about his new series on race in America, and we also talked about President Trump and why he says he respects the President but says, my goodness, every day is a wild ride.

[15:55:00] Also, this. A moment to honor two CNN Heroes who joined forces to help women in Greek refugee camps. Their project uses the life vests that refugees wore on their journey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The project is making welcome mats from the life vests, so they are

weaving these, getting paid to weave them, and we're going to sell these in the U.S., and the idea is that we are laying down the welcome mat for them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can do so much better in welcoming people to our country. This is a direct way to give empowerment and hope in something as simple as purchasing a mat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Love that. Find out how you can buy a mat or nominate a CNN Hero. Go to cnnheros.com. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: You know Charles Barkley, Sir Charles, for his Hall of Fame NBA career and now TNT's "Inside the NBA" and he's also premiering a two-part series on TNT called "American Race in 2017," journeying across the country himself to explore the diverse cross-section in America.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you protest peacefully, sometimes your voice doesn't get heard. A lot of people were hurt from burning down the CVS, but it brought all of media down on Pennsylvania avenue. Sometimes you have to take that narrative by the neck. I'm saying it was negative that it had to burn down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That served no purpose whatsoever!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How, if it didn't burn down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It brought the media, that's all it did because everybody that was affected by that was the people you said that you felt bad for.

BALDWIN: So, I talked to Charles recently. We talked a lot about those conversations he had. Talked a lot about undocumented immigrants, Muslims. It was fascinating, his take, and the people he talked, to so we're going to post that of course, I also asked him about the President.

CHARLES BARKLEY, EX BASKETBALL STAR: I didn't vote for the President, but I respect him for being the President. I respect the office, but this notion that everybody voted for Donald Trump is a racist or they are all full of evil, they have the right, that's what makes this country great. We have to demand more of our leaders.

BALDWIN: How would you grade President Trump these first couple of months in office.

BARKLEY: I think the thing that bothers me the most is just waking up every day and the Democrats and Republicans are arguing, like little kids. I mean, that drives me crazy. They disagree on every subject. The only people who really get hurt is the actual people. We're a little over 100 days in, and it's like turmoil every single day. I don't remember with any President that I can remember, like I say I'm living in the moment, but I don't remember something happening every single day like it does now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: We'll make sure to post entire conversation I had with Charles Barkley. We'll put it on cnn.com, my twitter @brookecnn. His show "American Race" tonight on TNT at 9:00 eastern. Thanks for being with me. "The Lead" starts right now.