Return to Transcripts main page


NYT: Trump Told Russians In Oval Office That Firing "Nut Job" Comey Eased "Great Pressure" From Probe; Sources: White House Lawyers Researching Impeachment; Trump to Unveil $100B Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia; Trump Aims to Reset Relations with Muslims; Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Hold Bilateral Meeting. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 20, 2017 - 08:00   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: Good morning to you at 8:00 here on a Saturday. I am Christi Paul. I know we look different today, right?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. It's great to be with you. Breaking news this morning, President Trump receiving a royal

welcome in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia rolling out the red carpet as it hopes for a reset with the new administration.

PAUL: This is all coming as the White House is just dogged by crises that they're hoping to reset. This morning, the president and the Saudi king are holding bilateral meetings. This was earlier, the first lady and his staff sitting down with top Saudi leaders at the welcoming ceremony.

King Salman presented the president with a gold medal. It's considered the kingdom's highest honor. There he goes. The president's lavish welcome, though, began a few hours ago when he stepped off Air Force One to a red carpet, military band, and jet fly over.

This morning, we have our team of correspondents following the president in Saudi Arabia. First, we want to get to Ryan Nobles in Washington. Because there is a new storm cloud that continues to brew over the White House and the Russian investigation. Ryan, what are you learning this morning?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, good morning to you. You talk about the cloud. Even though the president may be out of town, it is surrounding the investigation into Russia's attempt to intervene in the U.S. election.

And while the White House wasn't necessarily thrilled with the special counsel being named, there were some that hoped it would reign in the drip, drip, drip of reports and accusations. If the last 24 hours are any indication, the leaks will continue.


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 influence 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 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 many 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.


[08:05:11]NOBLES: As for the FBI director, James Comey, he has agreed to testify in an open hearing for the Senate Intelligence Committee. That will take place sometime after Memorial Day.

Meanwhile, a source familiar with his thinking has told CNN that Comey personally believes that the president was attempting to influence his judgment on the Russian investigation. Whether or not that rises to the level of obstruction of justice is an open question -- Christi.

PAUL: Ryan, thank you so much. Always appreciate it.

SAVIDGE: CNN senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta is live in Riyadh. We're talking about the president's visit here. Jim, it certainly looked like he got a very warm welcome and that warmth continues.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Martin. That's right. You know, the president is here in Saudi Arabia meeting with the king of Saudi Arabia, King Salman, and they did as you said a few moments ago roll out the red carpet for the president and first lady, the president's first family and just about every top official from the Trump administration here on the ground in Saudi Arabia.

We want to call attention to our viewers something very interesting that occurred during some of the interactions between the president and the king. King Salman at one point was caught on camera making some remarks about the civil war in Syria to President Trump.

At one point King Salman said, quote, "Syria, too, used to be one of the most advanced countries, we used to get our professors from Syria. They served our kingdom. Unfortunately, they, too, brought destruction to their own country. You can destroy a country in mere seconds but it takes a lot of effort."

So just goes to show you in these interactions the cameras are rolling. Not exactly a tremendous gap there on the part of the Saudi king, but one of those impromptu candid moments that can be caught on camera.

You can hear that the president and Saudi king were talking about the situation in Syria, just in the first interactions after the president landed on the ground here in Riyadh.

Of course, the president is preparing to give a big speech to the Muslim and Arab world tomorrow from here in Riyadh. The president is expected to call on the Muslim world to do more in the fight against terrorism.

As we have been talking about, the president did craft this speech along with his top speech writer, Steven Miller, who was very instrumental in crafting that travel ban that caused so much controversy at the beginning of this administration that was tied up in the courts because it was felt that it was discriminatory toward Muslims trying to come into the United States.

But at the same time, we should point out some of the color we have seen so far on the ground here, some interesting side notes. First Lady Melania Trump and daughter, Ivanka Trump, did not wear head scarves as they arrived here in Saudi Arabia.

That's interesting because back in 2015, President Trump criticized First Lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a head scarf in Saudi Arabia. He said at that time in a tweet that the United States has enough enemies, and suggesting that the first lady at that time Michelle Obama was creating enemies in the Muslim world by not wearing a head scarf.

As it turns out, this time around, First Lady Melania Trump and Ivanka not wearing head scarves during these arrival ceremonies here. But plenty of pomp and circumstance on the way, Martin, Christi. The president will be dining with the king later on this evening.

SAVIDGE: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much for the insights.

PAUL: All right, let's bring in Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, and also Danny Cevallos, CNN legal analyst and a criminal defense attorney. Gentlemen, thank you both for being here. I want to take a quick look here and listen together to Jeffrey

Toobin as he reacts to the latest reporting in the "New York Times" that the president called Director Comey a real nut job and said I'm not under investigation. Let's listen here.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: If you just parse the words that Donald Trump says, it does seemed 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 whole Russia campaign matter and he says I fired him, and the pressure is off.


PAUL: All right, so Danny, from a legal perspective, is Jeffrey right? Does that qualify as obstruction of justice?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Potentially. On one hand, we have sort of two kinds of obstruction of justice. We have obstruction in the criminal sense under the U.S. code and that is a law that is so broadly drafted that virtually any interference corruptly with any administrative or judicial proceeding can fall within the statute.

But of course, there's also obstruction in the impeachment sense which is a separate concept. You know, our framers believed that high crimes and misdemeanors, the high meant the political part.

So to the extent a president abused his official power that would be a high crime and misdemeanor, not necessarily something that's in the criminal statute books.

[08:05:08]So while this might be a difficult case for a prosecutor to get a conviction in the criminal obstruction of justice world, because frankly the president is the chief executive, he can technically call off an investigation.

However, looking towards impeachment as a possibility, it could rise to the abuse of power and obstruction of justice that the framers envisioned when they drafted the constitution.

PAUL: You know, Secretary Spicer in a statement said Mr. Comey put unnecessary pressure on the president's ability to conduct diplomacy with Russia on matters such as Syria, Ukraine, and ISIS, and that this is nothing more than we should be looking at the leaks as opposed to the verbiage necessarily here. Errol, what do you say to that, and the leaking that we've seen coming out of this White House, only 119, 120 days in?

LOUIS: It really is extraordinary the amount of leaks, where even the most sensitive discussions within the oval office almost immediately find their way into the news media, if Sean Spicer or anybody else on the White House is concerned about, they have to look inward, I think, and who is talking to the media so frequently and freely. As to the question of whether or not the investigation, the FBI

investigation, let's keep in mind, the president himself had called for it, it was the president who said we need to get to the bottom of this Russia stuff, he wants Congress and the FBI to get this behind him because there's nothing there, and then his actions directly contradict that.

So when -- if it is making it harder, the fact that this investigation, the multiple investigations are making it harder for him to conduct diplomacy, well, you know, that's a shame. But the reality is you can't step in, fire the FBI director, and bad mouth him into a hostile adversary and then sort of act as if everything is going to be OK.

You then start to go down that path toward people raising questions about whether or not there's been obstruction of justice.

PAUL: Errol, I want to get Danny's reaction to something you said when we spoke last hour about a possible investigation. You mention how the Clintons were initially investigated for whitewater and then by the time impeachment proceedings came about for the investigation there, it turned into something entirely different. What is the risk here, Danny, of starting one investigation and having it evolve into something entirely different?

CEVALLOS: There's always that risk. As we continue to dig into the Russia issue that can reveal more information just thinking hypothetically, even if Trump had some activity with Russia prior to the presidency, the authority seems to indicate that he cannot be impeached for pre-presidential activity.

However, to the extent he does any kind of activity with Russia that could be perceived as quid pro quo or to the extent he continues that activity with Russia into the presidency, then that becomes an impeachable type offense.

Exactly the kind of thing the framers intended. So any investigation could reveal much more activity that may not fall strictly within criminal statutes, but remember, we do not strictly need a criminal activity to be impeachable offense.

PAUL: All right, Errol, we've been seeing all these pictures from Saudi Arabia this morning, what does the president have to do on this trip to characterize it as a success?

LOUIS: Well, I mean, there are some deals that are lined up and I think he will have to and most likely will use those prearranged deals to sort of call it successful. Avoiding a disaster, frankly, would be a success when it comes to meeting with the warring parties in Israel and the West Bank.

This has been a tinder box for decades and it's simply getting through it I think without any major gaffes or any deterioration of the possibility of a peace process will be a victory for him.

PAUL: All righty, Errol Louis and Danny Cevallos, always grateful to have your voice. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Sources say that Russian officials bragged that they could use Michael Flynn to influence President Trump. Will this information become a liability to the Trump administration? We'll have our experts weigh in.

PAUL: Also, the "New York Times" reports as we have been saying, President Trump called James Comey a nut job. Now Comey's father has something to say and some choice words for the president. Those details are ahead.



PAUL: So right now, President Trump is in Saudi Arabia this hour, his first stop on this whirlwind eight-day five nation trip. In the U.S., however, this latest bombshell from "New York Times." The "Times" reporting that the president bragged to two top Russian officials that firing former FBI Director James Comey relieved, quote, "great pressure on him," the president.

SAVIDGE: Joining us now, Jeffrey Lord, CNN political commentator and contributing editor for the "American Spectator," and Maria Cardona, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist.

The "New York Times" report says that the president told two top Russian officials that Comey was a crazy nut job. Jeffrey, do you believe it and how damaging is this?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, probably he did. I mean, Donald Trump in many ways is Harry Trumanesque. He puts it right out there. I don't have any reason to doubt that he would have said this.

SAVIDGE: What was he referring to, though? What do you think he was referring to?

LORD: That's the thing, Martin. I don't think -- look, I don't believe that there's any there "there" with this Russian business. So you know, I have -- we're now in yet another day where there's no evidence that anything happened whatsoever.

[08:20:09]So all we're doing is just running with a "New York Times" story that is a little gossipy about what was said in the oval office, but it produces absolutely no evidence, none, zero, that there was any collusion with the president and the Russians.

SAVIDGE: Maria, do you buy that?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely not. I love Jeffrey, but he has got to take off his beer goggles when it comes to looking at Trump for what he is. Look, if there's no there "there," you don't get a special counsel appointed to the investigation.

Not only that, but we can see with our own eyes what happened this past week. Look, Trump fires Comey, then the next day he invites into the oval office one of the biggest known spies and spy recruiters that are Russian and not only makes fun of Comey, and we can laugh about that, we all agree that's Trump par for the course.

But more importantly he says to them that he fired Comey because he felt pressure about the Russia investigation and now that pressure is gone. Donald Trump in the White House I would argue is the biggest accomplishment or one of the biggest accomplishments in history of Russian operations and Russian intelligence.

Whether we find collusion there or not, I think we are seeing before our eyes the accomplishment of what Russia tried to do, and frankly was very successful in terms of throwing the election to Donald Trump. That is why we have special counsel. That is why we have seen so many direct ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians. So we'll see how this all plays out.

SAVIDGE: I just want to bring in a little bit more conversation here. Jeffrey, we have a special counsel to investigate whether there was wrongdoing, not that it supports necessarily there was wrongdoing.

I want to bring up this, though, first on CNN, sources say that Russian officials bragged that they could use Flynn to influence President Trump. Is that going to be a liability for the administration? And yes, we have to be dubious of the source.

LORD: Well, yes, but I mean, Russians or any foreign leader or foreign country can brag about anything they want. It can be true or not true. I mean, I just think that this is ridiculous. The part that I find ironic, having worked for President Reagan, Democrats spent the entire cold war saying that we should be nice to the soviets.

I mean, there was Alger Hiss for heaven sakes, who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union. I think that's a lot more serious over time. Dwight Eisenhower had the Soviet chairman to Camp David. President Kennedy sat down with him, Reagan was criticized for not meeting with Soviet leaders.

I mean, Ted Kennedy was trying to connive with (inaudible) to interfere in the 1984 election. I mean, I just think the history of this is pretty rich for Maria or others to be criticizing Donald Trump and Russians.

CARDONA: You know what's rich is when you have Russian spies in the oval office and the president of the United States sharing highly classified information with them that came from Israel, a close ally of the United States, but a nemesis of Iran which is one of the closest clients of the Russian state. That is rich and that's why we have a special counsel investigating this whole mess.

SAVIDGE: Well, I didn't even get to ask you all about Comey who is going to testify. We will have to save that for another time. Jeffrey Lord, thank you very much. Maria Cardona, thank you very much.

PAUL: We love having their voices.

So a huge arms deal overseas could mean boost in jobs for the U.S., how $110 billion in tanks, jets, and weapons for Saudi Arabia could translate to work for Americans.

SAVIDGE: Plus President Trump overseas, attempting to build religious bridges. That could be a tall order, especially after controversial remarks made about Islam and Muslims on the campaign trail. Can he use this trip to reset the relationship?



PAUL: Welcome back. So glad to have your company. I am Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: And I am Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. We have been watching all morning long what is really a remarkable first trip overseas by President Trump to Saudi Arabia and it is filled with pomp, circumstance, and history. Designed to send a message of resetting a relationship to a long time but sometimes controversial ally. But it has been overshadowed at home at least by President Trump's campaign possible ties to Russia.

PAUL: So let's bring in Nic Robertson, CNN international diplomatic editor. President Trump has a key meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia any minute now. Help us understand what they are to discuss, is that where the arms deal will come into play?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, probably the arms deal and a number of other deals. We're just beginning to get some of the details filtering through deals that are being signed. Of course, there are a number of CEOs, 40 or so U.S. CEOs here on a U.S., Saudi, I guess, call it a gathering of CEOs and businesses.

It's obviously a high level thing and it is designed to push through and get some ink on paper, signatures down on some deals, hearing about $6 billion arms deal, Lockheed Martin, GE and Raytheon.

And the interesting thing about those deals to assemble 150 Black Hawk helicopters from Lockheed Martin is to be done here. These deals working for the U.S. and Saudis.


The Saudis want to build their own weapons industry. So, there's $6 billion worth of deals has been signed on arms, equipment that will be in part manufactured here or new premises built in Saudi Arabia. $22 billion signed in oil and gas sector, $15 billion GE signed that will be part of a power generating system and other investments here as well. Dow signed a deal worth $100 million. We understand to build a manufacturing plant here. So, that business is certainly is part of the agenda that's being discussed here.

PAUL: Nic, what about as we look ahead to tomorrow and the speech that the president will give to some 50 leaders of Muslim countries. We know that his intent is to bridge the gap that there seems to be and to prop up the Muslim faith. Does he, however, have the authority to speak on Islam based on what he said as a candidate, candidate Trump as opposed to President Trump?

ROBERTSON: Sure. We all know what he said as candidate Trump. And so, who would have thought the man who could say those things could come to the cradle of Islam and deliver a speech to 50 regional Arab Muslim leaders about how Islam should portray itself. That's what it will do.

General McMaster, national security adviser, has said that this will be something that's done respectfully, that President Trump will ask and talk about the difference between good and evil and ask these leaders to convey to their faithful and for the people in their countries a more peaceful and a more tolerant vision and version of Islam. Of course, they already believe that they do that.

We have been out here meeting with people on the street and I have been asking them that very question. Donald Trump with this, you know, campaigning legacy of -- negative comments about Islam and about Muslims, how is this going to go? This is what I heard on the street here.

PAUL: OK. Nic Robertson, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: And continuing the theme. The $100 million - that's actually billion dollar arms deal, Nic Robertson alluded to, could provide tanks and ships and missile defense systems and on and on in Kingdom. But the real question is what does this mean for the U.S.

So for that, we talk to Nick Paton Walsh. He's senior international correspondent. He joins me now. Nick, there's a number of ways to look at the significance of this deal, one is to count the dollars and cents, potential for jobs, but also, how it seems that Saudi Arabia more and more wants to become a military power in the region.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly they have a lot of military strength. And a lot of that has been imbued in this relationship with the United States that has frankly for decades being a key tenet of U.S./Middle East in policy.

Now, what has been interesting now, Martin, as you know in the past few years or so, the Obama administration cooled slightly in their relations with Riyadh, they perhaps began to feel a little distrustful of some of the long term allegations, those Saudis is being behind some elements of extremism across that region there. Potentially, those with links to terrorism as well and also, the Obama administration was keen to get friendlier with Iran, going through that nuclear arms deal with them, to slow down Iran in nuclear program. Donald Trump said he would can that while he was campaigning, but has since gone a lot softer in his tone.

This really is the issue here, Martin, Saudi Arabian and Iranian rivalry across the Middle East right now, playing out in virtually everything you see. It's an evidenced in Syria, potentially even evidence in parts of Iraq as well. And this is the crux really for the White House here. And the fight against ISIS, they find themselves on paper at least often on the same side as Iran and Iranian backed militia, doing some of the fighting in Iraq, in Syria as well, occasionally clashing devices there as well.

Saudis on the other hand, are longer term strategic ally who the U.S. is often being more comfortable with certainly, financially, economically. The U.S. has always enjoyed taking as much Saudi oil money frankly as they seem to have laid their hands on. And what we're seeing here is substantial decision to put them - the U.S. administration for the years ahead in bed with the Saudis. And that's key because it will provide a lot of state of the art military hardware for the Saudi Arabians. And that will a lot be used in fact in the on-going war in neighboring Yemen, another complicating fact here.

The Obama administration was unhappy at times with use of some of the heavy weapons that they gave the Saudis, slowed down supply of them towards the end of Obama administration after accusations of civilian casualties being caused. And that appears now to be less of a concern to the Trump administration who are moving ahead with supplying substantial amounts of weaponry.

You'll find that most likely in the battlefield in Yemen at some point in the future. Unclear how long that war will endure, but it is tortuously awful for those Yemenis caught in it. It's between Houthi militia who have rebels inside Yemen that are backed by Iran.

[08:35:03] That again, that regional rivalry in the fall and Saudi backed government of Yemen itself. So many complicating factors here, but all of that really put aside by the enormous dollar figures we're seeing here.

SAVIDGE: Nick Walsh, thank you very much for that insight. Reminder that yields, by the way, is over ten years. Christi?

PAUL: Well, still to come, a point of view that we don't hear much when it comes to politics. A group of kids sit down with CNN. And then we want to talk about their impression of the president.


TESS DELGROSSO, THIRD-GRADE STUDENT: What's your favorite part about being president?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you think his answer is?

DELGROSSO: Playing golf.



[08:40:00] PAUL: Want to show you some of the pictures that we have just gotten in moments ago after we believe, the president was able to sit down and have a meeting with the King Salman. There is the president with the first lady, his wife, of course, Melania. As they come back to the room where they had the coffee meeting, we don't know if anything was actually signed in this bilateral meeting that just happened. But we are expecting some sort of arms deal to be established in his time there. So, we'll keep you posted on what we hear as we get the results of the day in.

SAVIDGE: We will indeed.

All right, President Trump's trip abroad will test the president's religious savvy as he becomes the only president to visit the Muslim, Jewish and Christian home lands on the very same trip. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that the president has been working tirelessly with his staff on the message of diplomatic immunity. It's going to be quite a challenge.

PAUL: Let's not forget the president's rhetoric about Islam and Muslims on the campaign trail. Take a look.


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 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.


PAUL: All right. Some questioning whether the president is the right messenger when it comes to religious unity, obviously. Here to discuss CNN religion editor Daniel Burke. Daniel, so good to have you with us, after we listened to everything that he said there, what could the president say that could -- it is not going to erase what he said as candidate Trump but could turn the tide and make him influential in that regard.

DANIEL BURKE, CNN RELIGION EDITOR: Well, I think when you look at this trip he had to address religion in some way. He is going to birthplace of Islam in Saudi Arabia. He's going to Israel, the holy land. And he's going to the Vatican. So, in some ways, preaching a message about religious unity is very smart. On the other hand, you just played a clip, rather a long clip of all of the things that Donald Trump has said about Islam and they were seen by many Muslims as incredibly divisive and it's somewhat uninformed. What he can say in the speech and it's safe to say that this speech is going to be really closely watched by not only Muslims in America but Muslims around the world. What Muslims want to hear are several things, number one, an acknowledgment that Muslims are trying to fight the radical ideology of ISIS, al Qaeda and other places. It is not like they're not doing anything. Number two, that Muslims have a place in the fabric of the United States. They've been there for a long time. They are an important part of the country. And number three, just an acknowledgment that most Muslims around the world, 1.6 billion are peace loving people and that while a fringe minority of Muslims are engaged in ISIS and al Qaeda, that they don't speak for the rest of the 1.6 billion Muslims.

PAUL: The president has been labeled Islamaphobic. He's denied that. Can he shed that characterization on this trip, do you think?

BURKE: I think he can go a long way toward that, sure. If he gives a decent speech that acknowledges the points I just made, that Islam has a long history, a long history of peace, that many Muslims want peace and that most Muslims are the victims, not most Muslims are the victims, but ISIS and al Qaeda, they attack far more Muslims than they do anyone else. So, I think he can make some positive steps on this trip to erase that Islamaphobic image.

PAUL: The president's own religious views are still in question. It's a man who said he is Christian. He isn't somebody that has been seen going to church a lot. He didn't answer questions about what his favorite bible verse was when he was asked as a candidate. What do you make of how his own religious beliefs play into his influence on this topic?

BURKE: You know, that's a really good question. I did a long story looking into Donald Trump's relationship with religion and the truth is there's just not a lot of there, there. He has a pretty good relationship with a pastor down in Florida, who he was watching on Christian television, her name is Paula White. And she's been giving him some spiritual guidance over the last 13 years or so.

He went to church. He was baptized to Presbyterian. He went to church somewhat with his family as a young man. But as an adult, he seems to not go to church that often, not have all that deep of relationship with either Christianity or particular congregations.

[08:45:07] So, you know, it is possible that during his time in the Oval Office he will develop a deeper relationship with Christianity, that happens to presidents just because of the pressure of the job. But we haven't seen that yet. He spent a lot more time golfing on Sundays than in church.

PAUL: All right. Daniel Burke, we appreciate getting your perspective on this. Thanks for being here.

SAVIDGE: All right. Think back when you were in the third grade, what was the focus on your mind, maybe recess, maybe it was lunch. Today, it seems the third graders are also thinking politics. We will get a group of kids to tell us what they think of this administration so far.


[08:50:00] PAUL: All right. Donald Trump, President Trump's first trip overseas. Live pictures here as he walks with the first lady and with King Salman in Saudi Arabia. They're at the Royal Court. And we understand that they're going to have a document signing here.

Now, this is what is interesting about this. It was supposed to be closed off. We were not supposed to - it wasn't supposed to be so public. We weren't getting word that this was something we would see. But we do understand now, as you see them walking quite slowly and almost ceremonially.

That there will be some sort of document signing. We do not know if this will be the arms deal. The $109 billion arms deal that has been talked about so much that Donald Trump, the President Trump, says will create jobs here in the U.S. A $109 billion arms deal weapons package that includes tank, fighter jets, war ships.

You can hear the music going on. So, it is a very public ceremonial moment. And we're hoping to get word on exactly what document they'll be signing together here.

SAVIDGE: Yes, we should point out that what we were initially given is a kind of a rundown, sort of bullet points of how this visit was going to go. So, when we say we can't give you the full details, it is because really they were not revealed.

But we can tell you that the imagery and the access that you're seeing of this visit is quite extraordinary which only shows you how much significance the Saudis are placing upon the visit of President Donald Trump. And they're obviously bending over backwards in the formality and also, in the public viewing of all of this because they know that it get seen around the Muslim world as well as back in the United States. And it is designed to reinforce the long-standing alliance that Saudi Arabia and the United States have had.

Now, it has wavered over time and the Obama administration is one clear example of how it started to subside somewhat over the Saudi war that is going on in Yemen and also the nuclear arms deal that was made with Iran. But now, Saudi Arabia clearly finds the president who which they have at least strong feelings toward in a positive way and they are trying to demonstrate that both in the way they greet that president and the way they show the world about that whole greeting.

PAUL: And as we watch here, as they're going to sign this document and it looks like they're getting a bit of a tour there of the Royal Court before they do so. Everybody also, is looking forward to tomorrow to the president speaking to 50 Muslim leaders.

And according to national security adviser General H.R. McMaster who is accompanying the president on this trip, he said the topic of that speech will be the need to confront radical ideology and that the president hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world to account. And so, his intent is to influence Muslim leaders to be more vocal in their rejection of radical Islam. Although, we understand radical Islam may not be a term he will actually use in that speech because it could be seen as offensive.

SAVIDGE: -- We should point out that what they are looking at -- it appears - I mean, sort of looking at this at a side view, that's a view of Mecca, which is the holiest sites of the Muslim world and it is within Saudi Arabia. It's a place that the president would not because he is not Muslim not allowed to visit, but it is a place of great pride and of great significance of course to the Muslim world.

So, here you have the President of the United States who is going to make a significant speech and it appears he's getting a bit of tutoring on the part of the Saudis to sort of give him some insights. And this may be based upon some of the very harsh and critical things that candidate Trump made on the campaign trail when it came to the Muslim faith.

PAUL: We've seen a lot of reverence, I think so far, on this trip and it has been very different as you mention, Martin, from past president's trips in that. The president if you are just joining us or the king rather, King Salman actually greeted the president and first lady at the airport which is unusual. He has not done that in the past with some of the other presidents and then they came back to the Royal Court where you're seeing this now and you're seeing them take this tour.

Prior to this, they had a ceremony, a coffee ceremony where they all spoke amongst each other and they were seated very tactically. There was obviously a structure to the way that they were seated. And the president was -- President Trump was given one of the highest honors, a gold necklace, actually it was called a Collar and it is one of the highest honors that the king can give to a dignitary.

[08:55:05] SAVIDGE: We're going to bring in the CNN's Nic Robertson. He has been to Saudi Arabia many times, knows the leadership as well. Nic, I know you can't see these pictures, but there have been a great many images coming from this visit already. And that would seem to imply the significance of the Saudi place to President Trump.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. We have seen them roll out if you will all the senior members of government, all the senior members of the royal family. We saw earlier the king sitting between President Trump and on his right, Melania Trump on his left, on her left, you have the deputy crown prince, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, onto the left again, Rex Tillerson, to his left, sitting next to the Deputy Crown Prince. So, you have the sort of top three tiers of the country, the king, the crown prince and the deputy crown prince all sitting next to key members, the President Trump, Melania Trump and to Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State. And on the right hand side of President Trump at that time you have Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner sitting there again with senior Saudi officials.

And that's what we're seeing here. We're seeing what we're expecting to be. We have been told to expect at this time a signing ceremony. We saw of course, the king give President Trump the highest award that is bestowed upon visitors to Saudi Arabia, to non-Saudis. So, a very high honor given to President Trump, it has been given to other presidents before, other American presidents before him.

But the amount of air time that the Saudis are giving him, the amount of sort of insight and time that we're being shown President Trump with the king is very significant. The king, of course, came to the bottom of the steps of Air Force One when President Trump came off. He didn't do that for President Obama, during President Obama's last visit. So, the mood music here is really set to build up to that very important speech that President Trump will give tomorrow.

And again, it is not just being given to Saudis, it is being given to a group of more than 50 different leaders from different Arab, Muslim and regional partners. And again, this is the significance of Saudi Arabia standing in the region, something they want to communicate to President Trump and something again that for President Trump it's a sign of how much support the Saudis are showing that they're giving him.

And that in a way is on the line in the nuance of the speech that President Trump will give to all these Muslim leaders and representatives of their country. The speech will be about a more tolerant and more peaceful message of Islam. And of course, many of these leaders believe they preach that, believe they put that forward already. So, it's going to be the nuance of the speech that will be so critical.

But what we are seeing now as President Trump mingles with the leading members of Saudi Arabia's royal family, leading members of the government have all been on hand there. Their foreign minister, the finance minister, other key ministers have all been out, all significant players and part of it is to do with business. And the signing ceremonies we're expecting will begin to indicate some of the deals that are being penciled that will bring business to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is trying to revitalize itself, trying to change itself. The deputy crown prince has a vision for 2030 to change the way that the Saudi economy works, to lose its dependence on oil, to create industries here, to be a transport hub for aircraft, to be a tourism hub, to create their own defense industry, to create their own car manufacturing industry, to shift that balance from what they have right now, which is 40 percent private sector money contributing towards GDP, to up that to 65 percent to 70 percent for much more significant amount of income of the country to be generated from the private sector, not from largeness of the government, so huge changes underway here and huge challenge. And President Trump of course in the Saudi eyes is playing a part in that. The deals that will be signed here will be part of that.

SAVIDGE: And of course -- the counter weight to all of that, Nic, is that not just the military deal but there's the significance of the speech to so many Muslims. Nic Robertson, thank you very much, as we have been following day one of the president's trip to Saudi Arabia.

PAUL: And the live pictures coming to you there. We will continue obviously to follow this throughout the morning. But we do have to pass of the time now to Smerconish who will take over. We'll be back with you at 10:00 a.m. to show you more of what's happening around the world. So, just stay close. And thank you for being with us.

SAVIDGE: See you later.