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Russia Probe Leaks Overshadow Trump's International Trip; Sources: White House Lawyers Researching Impeachment; NYT: Trump Told Russians In Oval Office That Firing "Nut Job" Comey Eased "Great Pressure" From Probe; President Trump Receives Royal Saudi Welcome; Iran Re-elects President as Trump Visits Region; Food Shortages and Deadly Protests Plague Venezuela. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired May 20, 2017 - 06:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've now got two major bombshells that happened at this meeting. The president of the United States joking to the Russian ambassador that he's the only one who campaigned apparently didn't mean it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House is not denying this report which is notable. This has moved from what was a distraction to the young Trump presidency to completely consuming it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the kind of cartoon villain language you would not expect any president of the United States to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does seem very close to a confession of obstruction of justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not proof, not charges, but mounting evidence that has to be put together in a mosaic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is who the American public elected. They elected someone who is outrageous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to wonder what is going on inside the head of Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing there for impeachment. I think this is the Democrats getting ahead of themselves.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, look at you, up already on a Saturday morning. Good morning. We are so glad to have you. I'm Christi Paul. It's 6:00 in the morning. Look who is with us this morning.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. Great to be with you. Great to be with all of you. Breaking overnight, we have President Trump embarking on what is his first overseas visit and where does he go, Saudi Arabia is the first stop, and today kicks off an ambitious eight-day five country trip across the Middle East and Europe.

PAUL: This is a high stakes tour. The White House is hoping will reset a presidency that's been dogged down in crisis as you know. A few hours ago, the president and First Lady Melania, you see them there, Melania Trump stepping off Air Force One to a very warm welcome in Riyadh.

King Salman greeted both of them, shaking the president's hand and first lady's hand as well. In just a few minutes, we're expected to see the president and the Saudi king again for an arrival ceremony at the Royal Court.

Now this morning we have our team of correspondents following the president in Saudi Arabia. First, I want to get to CNN's Ryan Nobles in Washington where new storm clouds continue to brew over the White House and the Russia investigation. Ryan, what are you hearing this morning?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christi. Even though the president is overseas, the controversy surrounding his connections and his campaign's possible connections to Russia continue to intensify and even though a special counsel has been appointed, there have been some thought that the leaks surrounding the White House would do go away. They've done the exact opposite.


NOBLES (voice-over): The "New York Times" is reporting that President Trump bragged to the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador in the oval office about his firing of FBI Director James Comey saying, it, quote, "relieved great pressure from the Russia investigation."

The report also says Mr. Trump called Comey, quote, "crazy, a real nut job." The White House is not denying "The Times" story which is raising new questions about President Trump's intent in firing Comey.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy shared a link to the report on Twitter saying in his own words, quote, "This is what obstruction looks like." Republican Congressman Scott Taylor isn't so sure.

REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: But of course, there is context with text and we don't not context of the meeting itself and what he was trying to do. We don't know that, of course.

NOBLES: Meanwhile, sources tell CNN that Russian officials bragged that they had cultivated a strong relationship with former Trump adviser, Retired General Michael Flynn, and believed they could use him to influence Donald Trump and his team.

Officials caution however that the Russians might have exaggerated their influences with Trump's team and those intercepted conversations. Flynn's lawyer declined to comment.

In a statement the White House said, quote, "We are confident that when these inquiries are complete, there will be no evidence to support any collusion between the campaign and Russia."

A member of the House Intelligence Committee is questioning why President Trump remained so loyal to Flynn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why in God's name did the White House keep this guy on for 18 days after Sally Yates went to the White House and said this guy is a national security risk? So it's one of the weird and unanswered questions in this investigation.

NOBLES: And after days of incendiary headlines, CNN has learned that White House lawyers are researching what a possible Trump impeachment might look like.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: All of this relates to official White House operations so the White House Counsel's Office will handle some of it, but some of it involves Donald Trump personally, and he needs a lawyer.

NOBLES: But sources tell CNN that impeachment is still a distant possibility at this point. White House officials believe the president has the backing of Republican allies in Congress, and the Democratic establishment remains cautious about calling for impeachment.


NOBLES: And it's not just people that are working in the White House currently that are caught up in this investigation. Those who worked on the Trump campaign could also be a part of this probe, one former campaign official telling our CNN's Jim Acosta that he thinks that Donald Trump should pay for their legal fees and their representation because of all the activity surrounding this Russian investigation -- Christi.

[06:05:14]PAUL: All right, Ryan Nobles we appreciate it so much, thank you.

SAVIDGE: And CNN senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta is live in Riyadh. Jim, looks like the president had not just a warm welcome, the Saudis are pulling out all the stops to meet him.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They really are, Martin, and from a diplomatic standpoint this is really jumping into the deep end of the swimming pool for a new president coming into office, this would be a challenging trip, if he were not facing all of the chaos back at home.

But he is taking many of the challenges that you just heard Ryan Nobles lay out along with him as he embarks on this eight-day foreign trip overseas, starting here in Saudi Arabia. He was greeted by Saudi King Salman as he stepped off of Air Force One with his first lady, Melania Trump, earlier this morning. He's going to be dining again with the king later on tonight. But really what the president is doing today, Martin, is preparing for what is going to be a major speech for this president, he's going to be delivering a big speech to the Arab and Muslim world tomorrow.

Essentially calling on the Muslim world to do more in the fight against ISIS, against what the president refers to as radical Islamic terrorism, although we should point out, we are hearing from White House officials that the president may not use that phrase in that speech.

That speech is being crafted by his chief speechwriter, Steven Miller, who is very instrumental in putting together that Muslim travel ban that was proposed during the campaign and then the travel ban that was put into place or attempted to put into place while the president came into office earlier this year.

Of course that travel ban has been tied up in the courts and so there's going to be a lot of people around the Muslim world waiting to see what the president says, how much he softens his tone, rhetoric because of that ban that was proposed by the administration very early on in the days of this administration.

Now at the same time, the president has to prepare for the other legs of this trip, which are going to be very important. He leaves for Israel after he spends some time here in Saudi Arabia that will also be fraught with all sorts of diplomatic challenges.

But again the president arriving here in Saudi Arabia with all of those challenges swirling, all those controversies swirling back home with respect to the firing of the FBI Director James Comey and his conversations with the Russians about that firing.

Of course, at this point, one thing that we're tracking is whether the president takes any questions from reporters. At this point a senior administration official is telling us, Martin, that there are no plans for a news conference, although they are trying to schedule one in during this eight-day trip -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Jim Acosta, thanks very much, reporting from Riyadh -- Christi.

PAUL: All right, let's talk to Errol Louis, CNN's political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, and Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner." Thank you both for being here.

Let's listen together first of all to what CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, had to say about this latest "New York Times" report.


TOOBIN: It does seem very close to a confession of obstruction of justice. I mean, he is talking about James Comey, who was investigating him and his campaign, in connection with the Russian campaign manner, and he says, "I fired him and the pressure is off." I mean, it doesn't seem much more complicated than that.


PAUL: Is it for complicated than that, though, Errol? I mean, he seemed to think it was very clear cut. Is it obstruction of justice?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It certainly marches you down that road. The real question, of course, is what does that mean? If the president can be alleged credibly to have obstructed justice, what's the remedy?

We always end up right back at the same place not because it's an exaggeration but it's just what the constitution allows for impeachment is about the only remedy that you have.

The notion that you can sort of go in and maybe hit him with some kind of subpoena, drag him before a grand jury and indict the president just for committing obstruction of justice, which is a federal crime, it doesn't really work that way at all.

So what we've got is the public opinion is really going to be the first cut at this. If the things that the president is alleged to have done which the White House is not denying upsets people, they'll let it be known to pollsters, perhaps in protests, perhaps a letter to your member of Congress and so forth.

But I think Jeffrey Toobin is exactly right, I mean, this is really pretty open and shut. If the man says himself, "I fired him because there was a lot of pressure coming down on me," that is interfering with a judicial process.

PAUL: Sarah, we know that this "New York Times" report says that these are based on notes taken from inside the oval office, and has been circulated as the official account of this meeting. Let's talk about this leaking from the White House.

[06:10:07]How problematic is it and are they more substantial? Are the leaks we're seeing now with President Trump more substantial than leaks that we have seen in other presidencies, particularly 119 days in?

SARA WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I mean, clearly these leaks are extremely problematic for the Trump White House, because it undermines their agenda at every turn. Just when the cable news networks were start toing to show images of President Trump's departure to Riyadh, the news cycle was finally starting to calm down and turn to the significant of his first foreign trip.

Then they had to turn around and try to deal with the fallout from this "New York Times" story and the parallel "Washington Post" story at a time when they were literally in the air flying to Riyadh. So this is difficult for the White House.

The leaks are really eroding their ability to focus on the agenda, to focus on anything else but the controversies and I think it is more significant than the types of leaks we saw particularly during the Obama administration.

We didn't see leaks of sensitive classified intelligence that could only be intended to hurt the president. This is clearly somebody within the government who does want to undermine the president's agenda.

And even though it is bringing at times valuable information to light, the Trump administration should be worried that there are people inside the government who are willing could compromise the president's agenda like this.

PAUL: Sean Spicer mentioned that in a briefing he gave. I want to ask you, Errol, sources told CNN that White House lawyers are researching impeachment, this is the word we've been hearing for two weeks from a lot of Democrats but does this latest report from the "New York Times" further the notion that the impeachment process is more likely?

LOUIS: Whether it's likely or not is really a political question more so than a legal one. So I think what the attorneys are doing is what any good attorney would do, which is to sort to try to game out the worst case scenario so that they can tell their client, the president in this case, what is or is not likely to happen.

I think it's also a matter, Christi, of sort of making sure that the president doesn't get maneuvered into a position where he says and does things that will cause him more trouble than he is expecting.

So for example, there were four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton. They were the result of an investigation into whitewater, the four articles of impeachment that eventually did result in the impeachment of Bill Clinton had nothing to do with whitewater.

So you want to make sure you are not sort of letting someone down the road that's going to lead them into a real problem and so it is just prudent for any attorney to sort of look at this especially when terms like obstruction of justice are ending up in the newspapers.

PAUL: Yes, very good point to make. Sarah, what are your thoughts on that?

WESTWOOD: I think Errol is absolutely right. I mean, the thing that got President Clinton in trouble was covering up a totally separate indiscretion that was uncovered in the course of that investigation and that's the challenge for the Trump administration now that a special counsel is involved.

It's not just the underlying issue of potential allegations of Russian collusion, which have not yet been substantiated, but also any attempts to conceal documents or misrepresent events in testimony, those are the types of things that really could hurt the Trump administration and in the past when we have seen people get in trouble and these types of probes it's the cover-up. It's not the crime.

PAUL: All right, Errol Louis, Sarah Westwood, always appreciate you being with us in the morning here. Thank you. SAVIDGE: President Trump is facing a firestorm after reports that he fired James Comey over the Russia investigation. One Senate Democrat is saying that there's mounting evidence of obstruction of justice.

PAUL: And the president in Saudi Arabia right now, trying to reset relations with the Muslim world. Will his anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric, however, and the stalled travel ban on Muslim majority countries have an impact on what he's trying to do now?



SAVIDGE: Right now President Trump is in Saudi Arabia, focusing on diplomacy, foreign relations, as embarrassing Russia investigation leaks unfold at home.

The latest bombshell, the "New York Times" reporting President Trump bragged to two Russian officials that firing a former FBI Director James Comey relieved great pressure on him.

Joining me now is A. Scott Bolden, former chairman of the Washington, D.C., Democratic Party, and Ben Ferguson, CNN political commentator. Good morning.

Nice to see you. All right, let's start by listening to what Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said. Here it is.


SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: -- mounting evidence of obstruction of justice, not proof, not charges, but mounting evidence that has to be put together in a mosaic that could eventually lead to charges against high-ranking White House officials.

The president should have been putting pressure on the Russians, because they interfered in our election, and there is bipartisan consensus that the Russians meddled in our democratic institutions in an unprecedented scope and scale.

And they are testing us around the world, and then Donald Trump is saying to them that he was relieved because he had just fired an FBI director who was investigating ties between his campaign and that Russian interference.


SAVIDGE: All right, let me start off by asking you both what's your take on this comment. Scott, let's begin with you.

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE WASHINGTON, D.C., DEMOCRATIC PARTY: You know, I agree with those comments not because I'm a Democrat and he's a Democrat. I agree with it because the notion taking the pressure off we now see into his mind, that is a statement that supports intent to obstruct justice or at least intent to fire Comey and the response is to take the pressure off. [06:20:09]He said something similar to NBC other than that he considered the Russian investigation -- the investigation is going to go forward, but Comey was the face of that investigation, and now we know the mounting evidence are his own statements.

These are self-inflicted wounds, but that ultimately will be up to Mueller to figure out what's next.

SAVIDGE: All right, I imagine, Ben, you have a different take on that.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, first off, James Comey was not the face of the investigation. When was James Comey ever out talking directly about this investigation? He wasn't. There is a team below him that is still intact at the FBI that is involved in this investigation that has not missed a beat at all here.

The second issue is, the issue I have with this story the most is the fact that we don't know the context or even if these statements are accurate and/or true. We know that they're coming from people that are leaking and we've had a constant stream of leaks which also by the way is against the law.

It's a federal offense when you leak classified information or private information and we are seeing these leaks come out. Every time this happens I sit there and at this point am almost numb to it because there's been so many people that have come out with, quote, "insider information" that has been proven to be inaccurate here.

So you have a president that's having a conversation with the Russians. It could be in the context of multiple different issues, and then they say oh he told him somehow the pressure is off. The president doesn't think the pressure is off. The White House doesn't think the pressure is off because James Comey is gone.

What we saw about James Comey is he's an individual that liked the limelight, that liked being political, and the FBI director should not be political. That's the reason why --

SAVIDGE: I'm not sure there's evidence, Ben, to suggest that he was political. In fact, many of the supporters would say that he is apolitical.

FERGUSON: That's not true.

SAVIDGE: Hold on.

FERGUSON: Seven Democrats said that he --

SAVIDGE: Let me ask you this. Instead of talking about leaks, let's talk about testimony.

BOLDEN: Exactly.

SAVIDGE: And the Senate Intelligence Committee has announced that Comey will testify at a public hearing and I'm wondering what are your thoughts on that, does it surprise you? What do you hope to hear?

BOLDEN: No, I'm glad. I'm not afraid on behalf of the White House or Donald Trump of James Comey. I am actually thrilled that he's going to be coming out, sitting there and having to answer tough questions, but I'll go back to the point I said a moment ago.

James Comey has become so political in this process. This is not about the FBI's work. This is about James Comey wanting to rewrite his legacy. The top seven Democrats on Capitol Hill in the last six months have called for him to either resign or be fired.

Now all of a sudden they're acting like he's a perfect nonpolitical FBI director that had never done anything wrong or overstepped his bounds as director.

When I see that he's going to testify, one, that's exactly what I'd expect from James Comey wanting to be in front of the cameras, wanting the center of attention and wanting to be a part of this.

Two, I can't wait to listen to him back up some of the decisions he mad and also for Democrats to stand by their calls for firing him over the last six months which now they've --

SAVIDGE: Let me bring in Scott because I've heard a lot from you, Ben. Scott, let's talk about the fact the president told two top Russian officials Comey was a crazy nut job. Again this is coming from a source. How damaging is this?

BOLDEN: Was he talking about himself or Mr. Comey? I don't think it's damaging at all quite frankly because here is the deal. Comey is well respected by Democrats and Republicans, both have disliked his conduct at various times, but Comey's testimony is going to be very important. It will be thoughtful.

He's got his notes from the memo that are contemporaneous with his conversation and distrust of Donald Trump and remember, notwithstanding what Ben says the bottom line is the Trump administration, the DOJ has appointed a special prosecutor to look into this.

Because they're incapable of doing it, because Rod Rosenstein became a witness not only in the termination of Comey but a witness in regard to a memo that was the pretext that assisted Donald Trump in laying blame on, laying blame on Comey. There's a lot to be investigated here.

I think Comey's testimony will lead to a lot of answers. We're going to get that memo and I welcome this testimony as well. It will be great theater but based on truth --

FERGUSON: One, we don't know if --

BOLDEN: -- and honesty.

FERGUSON: We don't know if a memo exists. If a memo exists, how many other memos are there? BOLDEN: Of course, they have sourced the memo. They read from the memo. That's nonsense, Ben.

FERGUSON: Let me finish. We don't know if there are these memos. This is again a leak who is saying that there are these memos.

[06:25:04]BOLDEN: No, no. His friends read the memo to the reporter. What are you talking about? That's nonsensical.

SAVIDGE: Ben, finish up, please.

FERGUSON: If there are memos, how many memos are there? Are there memos from James Comey about the tarmac meeting with a former justice official meeting with Bill Clinton because I'd love to see those memos if they exists?

BOLDEN: Completely irrelevant.

SAVIDGE: We have to leave it there. Ben, I appreciate it. Ben Ferguson, thanks very much. A. Scott Bolden, thank you as well. It's not the last time we'll talk about this. We'll have you both back, thanks.

PAUL: By the way, an election overseas with big implications for the United States, something we're watching this morning. Why the White House keeping a close eye on Iran and how it could affect the U.S.?

First though, more than 18 million people are at risk for some severe weather today I'm sorry to say, we are talking about damaging winds, hail, even the chance for a tornado.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam in the CNN Severe Weather Center. So Derek, where is mother nature's bull's eye today?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Fortunately, it's moving away from the plains, they get a break today, but now we're focusing our attention, Christi, on the mid-Mississippi River Valley, the 18 million people you mentioned stretching from Louisville to Nashville to Jackson and portions of Texas as well.

Isolated tornadoes a potential, large hail, damaging winds. The good news out of all of this is that it won't be as widespread and as destructive as the work week has been.

We've had over 90 tornado reports, 700 wind reports and 453 hail reports from this storm system that continues to evolve across the central parts of the country. While there's formidable storms moving eastward, they're not as robust as what they were say 24 to 48 hours ago.

Look at this, nearly 30,000 lightning strikes within the past two hours from the storms that continue to march eastward and heavy rainfall, we've been talking about this for a while as well.

Eleven states across the plains with flood warnings as we speak centralized across Oklahoma and into Missouri. The storm systems are popping up again across Alabama and Missouri later today. That's all we've got from the weather center. There's plenty more NEW DAY coming up after a quick break.


[06:31:43] PAUL: A lot to talk to you about this morning. 6:31 is the time. Welcome. I'm Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.

Let's start talking about that high stakes trip with the president under pressure. President Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia that started his eight-day trip through the Middle East and Europe. And despite his campaign rhetoric he appears to be looking to reset the relations with the Muslim world.

PAUL: The thing is he can't seem to reset the crisis that's enveloping the White House right now. The White House now denying reports that its lawyers are preparing for impeachment. This after a "New York Times" report that claims the president told two Russian officials inside the Oval Office including a top Russian spy Comey was, quote, "a nut job," and the, quote, "great pressure from the Russian probe" had been, quote, "taken off."

SAVIDGE: Plus two stories that CNN is breaking. Sources tell U.S. that former FBI Director Comey believes that Trump was trying to influence the investigation while the Senate Intelligence Committee confirms that Comey will testify publicly next week.

And CNN has also learned that Russia boasted that they could use former National Security adviser Michael Flynn to easily influence the president. Republicans are remaining relatively silent but some warn this cannot go on much longer.


RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: I would say this to President Trump. This can't continue for a whole lot longer. And I think one of the reasons they're not responding to the "New York Times" story is they want to change the narrative, they want to start talking about Saudi Arabia, they want to start talking about Israel and the Middle East and I think that's what they're going to focus on and hopefully that will begin to give some comfort to Republicans that he's actually interested in being president and doing something positive for the country.


SAVIDGE: So Let's bring in now Nic Robertson, CNN international diplomatic editor, and Jerry Feierstein -- Feierstein, excuse me, director of Gulf Affairs for the Middle East Institute and former ambassador to Yemen under President Obama.

Jerry, I'll get to you in a moment about the political implications of the visit. But first to you, Nic.

President Trump has a key meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia. What are they expected to discuss?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Certainly the possibility of business. When you talk about politics and regional influence, the Saudis are very keen for President Trump to reverse the perceptions that President Obama's administration and be much tougher on Iran. The Foreign minister here yesterday or the day before spoke about the need for Iran to be made to act and behave like a normal country to follow international law.

Defense Secretary Mattis when he was here a month ago said we must -- the United States must help the Saudi Arabia resist against Iran's mischief in the region. So that's certainly something where the king is going to want a president -- President Trump to deliver. Also there's this aspiration the foreign minister called Trump courageous, that his courageous approach may help bring Middle East peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Obviously many presidents had hoped for that.

But for President Trump here the Saudi stop on this trip should be perhaps the one where he can best draw that line between everything that's happening in Washington and reset his image here. There is this huge hope and expectation we're hearing this from all Saudis whether on the street or leaders in the government that they hope that this trip will reset the relations between the West and the Arab Muslim world despite what President Trump has said on the campaign trail.

[06:35:13] They're prepared to put that behind them. So the mutual expectations here are very high.

SAVIDGE: Real quick, Nic. You mentioned or alluded to it, this deal, this arms deal, $100 million? I'm wondering first of all what's the real significance of this beyond the dollars?

ROBERTSON: Potentially $100 billion. Saudi Arabia is the world's third largest security and defense spender. It's allocated 21 percent of its GDP this year so far on defense and security spending. And it spends most of that money with the United States.

What it's looking for here is to be able to stand alone in the region, protect itself, and project strength, the defensive strength into the region, and that means principally towards Iran. So that's what they're looking to do here. No as they felt under President Obama that perhaps the United States won't support them at a time of crisis, as they saw in Egypt and Tunisia during the Arab spring. Now they built the forces to stand alone. The expectation is who they might stand alone against could be Iran, so that's the threat that they want to see off here.

SAVIDGE: All right. Jerry, let me bring you into this conversation. Then candidate Trump is criticized for his anti-Muslim rhetoric during the campaign trail. Let's just remind viewers take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. I think Islam hates us. Radical Islam is anti-woman, anti-gay, and anti-American. Radical Islamic terrorism is just, you know, taking over and we can't let that happen. When it comes to radical Islamic terrorism, ignorance is not bliss. It's deadly. They're trying to take over our children and convince them how wonderful ISIS is and how wonderful Islam is. We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism.


SAVIDGE: So, Jerry, is this all going to be remembered by the Saudis and the other leaders that are there or is it water under the bridge?

JERRY FEIERSTEIN, DIRECTOR, GULF AFFAIRS, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: Well, I think that this is an opportunity to reset that relationship and to clarify that what the president said on the campaign trail, in the early days of the administration in fact was not really where this administration is, and that what we see now is opportunity for the United States, for the non-Islamic world and the Islamic worlds to work together to address a common threat, and that is the threat of violent extremism, whether it's Daesh in Syria and Iraq or elsewhere in Yemen, and around the region, that we are in this all together.

We recognize that the Islamic world is -- shares our goals and objectives and that we can work together to accomplish them.

SAVIDGE: But, Jerry, is there a concern that it could look like Washington's aligning itself too much with, say, the Sunnis?

FEIERSTEIN: Well, I think when you look at what he's going to be saying on the -- in the speech and in the meetings that he's going to be having with the leadership of not only Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council, but more broadly with Islamic and Arab leaders, as well as the very strong position that this administration has taken in terms of challenging Iran, Iran's expansionist objectives in the region, that you could have that interpretation but at the same time I think that you can also make the argument that what the United States is trying to accomplish is promote security and stability in the region, and that that is neither Sunni nor Shia.

SAVIDGE: All right. Jerry Feierstein, Nic Robertson, thank you both for your insights. We'll talk to you again.

PAUL: So as the president is overseas with this trip, a major election will affect the United States and the implications of the Iranian presidential election is something that the president is watching to see the impact that may be not only here in the U.S. but abroad as well. We'll talk about that next.


[06:43:35] SAVIDGE: As President Trump kicks off his first international trip in Saudi Arabia, nearby Iran has reelected its president for a second term and while President Trump won't stop there on this trip, Iran will likely be one of his main conversation topics with fellow world leaders. PAUL: Yes. The most important issue at stake here is how to protect

U.S. interests in the region.

CNN senior international correspondent is live in Tehran.

I know that you've been watching this unfold. What's happening there this morning now that it seems there is a winner?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean the Iranians here are saying that the fact that Hassan Rouhani, who is a moderate who wants to engage more with the West, is a sign that Iran itself is a strong country but also that Iran, of course, is going to continue its course in the region, which of course means its policies, for instance, in Syria, its policies towards Yemen and Iraq as well, but then also trying to economically engage with the West also, and of course, they're seeing themselves confronted with the Trump administration who's been very tough on Iran since it took office.

I think one of the things, Christi, that the Iranians really found surprising is that when they conducted ballistic missile tests in late January the Trump administration immediately hit them with new sanctions and just a couple of days ago they hit Iran with another set of sanctions. That certainly is something that has opened the eyes of many here in Iran as to just how tough this Trump administration is going to be and of course the trip in Saudi Arabia and the one to Israel can be very, very important because we have to keep in mind that Iran is Saudi Arabia's main adversary here in this region and of course a self-declared enemy of Israel as well -- Christi.

[06:45:13] PAUL: All right. Fred Pleitgen live for us there in Iran.

Fred, always appreciate it. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: And still to come, Venezuela is in crisis, as deadly protests and food shortages paralyzed that country. CNN went undercover inside the heart of devastation. That report is just ahead.


PAUL: All right. I want to share with you some of the live pictures we're getting in right now in that car, President Trump and First Lady Melania, as they arrive at the royal court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this hour. They're meeting with King Salman during the official welcoming ceremony. This -- you see the horses, the American flag, the Saudi flag there.

This has been a very warm welcome comparatively to what we saw with President Obama. That may be because the president -- President Trump is not focusing so much on human rights, alleged human rights abuses there in Saudi Arabia. So again the official welcoming ceremony just getting ready to begin as we see the president and first lady arrive there this hour.

[06:50:14] Let's talk about Venezuela because this is a country that is deep in crisis. It's plagued by food shortages, high inflation and some pretty deadly protests.

Take a look here. A funeral for a 15-year-old that was killed during protests just this week. The people are demanding an end to the socialist system that they feel has wrecked their economy.

SAVIDGE: The government there is clamping down on journalists who put devastation on display for the world to see. So CNN went in undercover, in the heart of the country on the brink of collapse.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Venezuela's dark lurch into poverty and chaos was on display. As you drive into the capitol, this food truck breaking down for mere seconds before it was looted.

Basic food is scarce. No shortage of bleach, but long lines for bread. This crisis all created by the mad policies of a government that now wants to hide the collapse, cracking down and intimidating journalists.

We had to go under cover and much of our filming was done covertly to avoid arrest.

But some poor nearing starvation, the people demand change. In violent clashes, tens of lives lost. As desperation meets tear gas and police birdshot.

You've heard of the Molotov cocktail. Well, that would be too simple for a once suave, gas-rich state. So this is the poo-poo-tov, a sewage bomb. "Mixed with gas and ammonia," he says. "Prepared directly for the police that throw tear gas bombs at us worth $60 each. My country doesn't have food and we can't even protest peacefully."

(On camera): This is the daily standoff. The crowd sometimes attacked by pro-government thugs on motorcycles who open fire indiscriminately.

(Voice-over): Gunfire takes at least one life this day, that of 27- year-old Miguel Castillo. But it doesn't stop the daily battle to eat. Virginia has been doing this for 18 months to feed her five kids. She can't find work since she had this little one. But here she sometimes finds what she calls meat.

"Sometimes I find stuffed bread, she says."With rice, meat, beans and pasta. Some people are conscientious and put it in clean bags, leaving it out."

So how has oil-rich Venezuela got so bad?

(On camera): In most countries, it's the market that sets the price of, let's say, for example, rice, but here in Venezuela, the government decides how much you should pay for most food stuffs, but also what many people's wages actually are. And since the oil price has crashed globally, they have been able to keep one up with the other. They have basically run out of money. And now for rice like this, you need to find three times as many notes as these, and that's about a month's minimum wage.

(Voice-over): Wherever you look, repression and hunger haunts this once proud city.

(INAUDIBLE) is a juggler, a magician for kid's parties, beaten heavily, he says, in the day before protest, now begging for food when we find him.

"I spend two days on the streets," he says. "And two days at home. And when I go home, it's because I have food. Before I get calls to do magic at birthday parties but now no. Now with the country the way it is, magic doesn't help."

They mourn the dead, the anger, quiet, indignant, not belligerent. South America is looking to see if Venezuela can fix its self-made crisis without major bloodshed but they are falling so far so fast, and the ground is getting nearer.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Caracas, Venezuela.


PAUL: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you. Wow.

SAVIDGE: We want to take you back now to Saudi Arabia where the president and first lady are being greeted in what's being termed the royal welcoming ceremony here.

Important to note that you cannot overstate the importance of this visit for the president for a number of reasons. First overseas trip going to a Muslim country, despite comments very critical of the Muslim faith, as he was running as a candidate, and then on top of that, there are business deals to be had, and of course after visiting in Saudi Arabia, he moves on to Israel.

[06:55:02] It's an itinerary that is potentially fraught with all kinds of pitfalls and it's all happening amidst the continuing to unfold political drama back in the United States.

Let's continue to watch.

PAUL: Playing for President Trump. You saw there in the background Melania, first lady, with him as well as Ivanka and Jared Kushner, accompanying him as well.

Remember, General -- the National Security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, said no president has ever visited the homelands and holy sites of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths all in one trip. That is what is happening.

Now they're getting ready to go in about 15 minutes to a coffee ceremony we understand but again a lot at stake here as they discuss an arms deal and he -- the president will speak to about 50 Muslim leaders tomorrow as we understand it trying to talk about the need to confront radical ideology and the president hoping for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world. That's the word from the White House.

So again, that is what is happening this hour as we continue to watch this historic visit from President Trump, his very first official foreign visit, going then to Israel and then lastly to the Vatican to a meeting with the Pope which will also be highly watched.

SAVIDGE: It is. You watched that greeting there by the Saudis and it's clear they're pulling out all the stops. They want to mach a very good impression. That's because under the former president, President Obama, relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia were not in the best of conditions.

In fact the last time President Obama was in Saudi Arabia, the king of Saudi Arabia, did not come to the airport to greet him. That was very different this time around as King Salman was at the airport to greet now President Trump.

So it shows you the significance that the Saudis are placing on this. They hope it's a reset, as has been said many times, with the Washington administration which is always so carefully and politically as well as militarily tied to the kingdom.

PAUL: All righty. So just stay close as we kick off NEW DAY again. The next hour starts right now.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR, OUTFRONT: We've now got two major bombshells that's happened in this meeting. The president of the United States joking to the Russian ambassador that he's the only one from the campaign that apparently didn't meet him.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is not denying this report which is notable.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This has moved from what was a distraction to the young Trump presidency to completely consuming it.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And it's the kind of cartoon villain language you would not expect any president of the United States to say.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It does seem very close to a confession of obstruction of justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not proof, not charges, but mounting evidence that has to be put together in a mosaic.

CHALIAN: This is who the American public elected. They elected someone who is outrageous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to wonder, what is going on inside the head of Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing there for impeachment. I think this is the Democrats getting ahead of themselves.


PAUL: Well, good morning to you on a Saturday morning. I'm Christi Paul and we have with us a special guest.

SAVIDGE: I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. Nice to see you and as always with you.

PAUL: Always good to have you here.

SAVIDGE: This morning President Trump is in Saudi Arabia. He's kicking off the first day of an ambitious international trip but here at home a world of new problems unfolding for the White House. Live pictures, by the way.

PAUL: Live pictures here as the president is greeted there by King Salman and the leaders there in Saudi Arabia.