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President Trump Speaks to Muslims on First Foreign Trip; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Interview with California Congressman Adam Schiff; Panel Assesses Trump's Speech, Domestic Controversies. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired May 21, 2017 - 12:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): On the world stage, President Trump speaks to Muslims on his first foreign trip.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death. If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen.

TAPPER: But will his message be overshadowed by the political firestorm at home.

Plus, Comey speaks. The fired FBI director will testify before Congress, could he drop yet another bombshell.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: We are a nation of laws and those laws and rules are going to be followed.

TAPPER: Senator Rubio will be here after a week of jaw dropping revelations.

And, tipping point? President Trump's lawyers begin researching impeachment procedures.

TRUMP: I think it's totally ridiculous, everybody thinks so.

After this week's explosive events, the best political minds will be here to talk about what happens next.


TAPPER: Hello, I'm Jake Tapper in Washington where the state of our union is getting away from it all after the most devastating week of his young presidency, President Trump escaped Washington for the friendlier confines of Saudi Arabia where he is being welcomed quite warmly by that nation's king and other Arab leaders on his first official visit overseas.

The Saudis even projected his image on to the hotel where he is staying, the next best thing to having his name on the building I suppose. The president who was elected after calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States is now hoping to reset relations with the Muslim world. And in the speech he just delivered in Saudi Arabia this morning, he asked Arab nations for their help in battling terrorism.


TRUMP: It's a choice between two futures and it is a choice America cannot make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists. Drive them out.


TAPPER: President Trump's trip follows a wild week in Washington which capped with the bombshell report that he told Russians inside the Oval Office that firing FBI Director James Comey greatly relieved the pressure he was facing because of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign team.

That news coming just after the Justice Department appointed another former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel to oversee the law enforcement investigation.

There's so much to talk about and while we continue to monitor developments in the Middle East, let's go right to Republican Senator Marco Rubio of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us, we appreciate it.

RUBIO: Good morning.

TAPPER: I'm really -- I'm really interested in hearing your response to a specific excerpt from President Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia this morning specially this part.


TRUMP: We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership based on share interests and values.


TAPPER: Senator, frankly I cannot imagine you ever saying anything like that when standing in a country like Saudi Arabia. Are you concerned at all about the president seemingly abdicating the very public role of the United States in standing up for democracy and human rights?

RUBIO: Well, I mean, yes, that would not have been a part of a speech that I would have delivered, for the reason that I think it's in our national security interest to advocate for democracy and freedom and human rights.

Now, with a recognition that you may not get it overnight there needs to be a period of transition. And I think, further in that speech, they talk about gradual improvements in places, which I think is wise and pragmatic.

That said, I would tell you that the White House and I have a different approach on the issue of human rights. I'm much more forceful and open and vocal about criticizing whether it's Egypt or Saudi Arabia for its human rights record. The White House is convinced they can get better results by addressing those issues in private one on one.

And, in fairness, you know, there are issues we have raised with the White House. They have then raised it with foreign leaders and have gotten results. Aya Hijazi was released from Egypt, and Sandy Phan- Gillis was released from China. But those are, you know, one case. There are thousands of these cases around the world. And so we just have a disagreement on the right way to approach it. And they have their approach, and I have mine.

But he's the president. We just have a difference in approach. There's no doubt.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the issue consuming domestic policies here.

You're a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Former FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify publicly before your panel after Memorial Day. What are you going to ask him?

RUBIO: Well, I think the gist of the inquiry is going to be obviously about the things that have been reported on.

And that is, did he keep these memos? What do those memos say? And why did he write it? And how did he feel? Did he ever feel like he was being put in a position where he couldn't do his job?


There's no doubt that that's the questions that are going to get asked, and asked repeatedly. And the American people deserve to have an answer to that. And I'm happy that Director -- or former Director Comey is going to appear publicly before the Intelligence Committee to answer these questions, so we can get it directly from him, and not simply have to rely on a third-hand account of how he felt and/or what was in those memos.

TAPPER: The White House has made it very clear they're going to attack James Comey's credibility. Do you think he's a credible person?

RUBIO: Well, my -- I don't know him personally very well. I have interacted with him over a number of years on the Intelligence Committee.

I have always found him to be respectful and forthcoming, particularly in closed settings, very good at explaining what it is he was working on. I know others have differences with him. But I have never had any quarrel with James Comey. I always found him to be a patriotic, hardworking American who loved the country.

Was he perfect? No. I imagine he would acknowledge that, too. But I -- you know, I certainly have always had a lot of respect for him, and -- but, you know, we're going to have that testimony. And people will be able to make their own judgment.

TAPPER: President Trump, of course, calls all of this a witch-hunt. What do you think of that?

RUBIO: Well, I wouldn't use the term witch-hunt.

Look, these issues are being raised in the press. OK? People are going to the press who appear to be in the know, or at least pretend to be in the know. They leak information. The press reports on it. These questions need to be answered.

Unlike some other people, I am one of the 15 people in the Senate that serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. A lot of people say, well, you're being very cautious about this. I am. And here's why, because the credibility of our investigation depends on every single one of us in that committee going in without any preconceived notions.

I have told everybody, I want to know the truth. I want to know the entire truth. I want to us to put it in a report, and I want it -- to share it with you and the whole country, so people can reach their own conclusion.

But the reason why the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who is a good guy, had to recuse himself is because he was taking hard positions in one direction or another on these issues. And so I don't want to prejudge any of this.

I acknowledge the media reports raise questions that need answers. But let's get to the facts. Let's establish the facts. And then people can make their concrete opinion or take a concrete opinion on these matters.

But, until then, it's my obligation to reserve judgment on all of this until all the information is in, and we have analyzed it together, and not just in -- based on media reports. I think that's the right thing to do for the country, because we need an Intelligence Committee report that people have confidence in.

We're not going to have that if the members of the committee are out there in front of the press already having made up their mind before the whole report is together.

TAPPER: I want to play something you said on the campaign trail back in November, when Hillary Clinton was running for president. Take a listen.


RUBIO: And I would just ask everybody this. Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI?


(CROSSTALK) RUBIO: Think of the trauma that would do to this country.


TAPPER: "Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI?"

Obviously, it's Trump's campaign team, not necessarily him that's under investigation by the FBI. But do you think that this is causing trauma to the country?

RUBIO: Well, let's be clear. Number one, the FBI has not said that the president is under investigation.

TAPPER: Right.

RUBIO: They don't discuss those things, so let's be clear about that.

Second, I would say to you that if, in fact, he ever becomes or any president, for that matter, of course that's not good for the country. And that's why I think it's important that we finish our work in a way that's credible.

So, the Intelligence Committee is going to review it, with a primary focus on counterintelligence. But I imagine, in the process, we may discover facts that are relevant to former Director Mueller's look at this. I think Mueller's appointment is going to look at this in a way that's thorough. And I hope everybody cooperates with his efforts, so he can quickly reach a conclusion and make a decision about moving forward or not moving forward.

That's in the best interest in the country. Quite frankly, it's in the best interest of the Trump administration to have something that is thorough and fair and above reproach, and as quickly as possible, so the country can move on in one way or another.

But there's no doubt that this cloud is impacting everything else. And I think the White House would acknowledge that. So, we need to get over this once and for all. And the best way to do it is to have a process in place to arrive at the facts, no matter what they are. And whatever those facts are, that's what we need to make our decisions on.

TAPPER: But it seems as though the White House is standing in the way of the process to get to the facts.

Look at the new bombshell from "The New York Times," the newspaper reporting that, when President Trump went behind closed doors in the Oval Office with Russian officials, he told them that firing FBI Director James Comey had relieved great pressure on him.

Let me go over the words with you -- quote -- "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

What was your response when you read the comments? RUBIO: Well, again, those response are based on notes that I haven't

seen, and neither have you. I'm not denying that they're -- I'm not admitting that they are. We don't know.

And that's why we need to have an inquiry that looks at all that. That's why I asked the White House to produce those notes to the Intelligence Committee, so we could review it. And I thought that was important. And I continue to believe it is important for them to do.

TAPPER: Of course, the White House is not disputing those comments as reported in "The New York Times."

And I guess there are a lot of Americans who are looking at this growing body of information, and wondering what exactly is going on here.

We have the comments that he made to the Russian officials, according to that document. President Trump recently told NBC's Lester Holt that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he made the decision to fire Director Comey.


Take a listen.


TRUMP: But, regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it.

And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


TAPPER: So, we have that. We have what he told the Russians, according to that document.

A source close to Comey tells us that President Trump urged the FBI director to back off investigating Michael Flynn -- this is in a Comey memo -- saying, "I hope you can let this go."

As an attorney, as a U.S. senator, do you consider this to be a growing body of evidence that the president might have attempted to obstruct justice?

RUBIO: We don't know yet.

Number one, I haven't seen those notes. Number two, we have yet to take the testimony from Director Comey. You say someone who knows him says. Well, we're going to have him in two weeks in front of the Intelligence Committee. He will be asked that question.

So, in two weeks, we will a lot know more, based on the testimony that he gives under oath before the committee and the country publicly. Until then, we won't know.

As far as the president's comment, that's always been the White House's position, that this whole thing is a farce. That's their position.

Our job in the Intelligence Committee has been to look at this entire episode for on -- for the purposes of counterintelligence in particular, and -- and then arrive at the facts, put them out in a report, and move on from there. And that's what we're endeavoring to do in a bipartisan way.

And, again, the best way to do that is not to litigate it in the press, but to do our work and put the report in a way that is credible, so no one can deny its credibility and no one can say that we went into it already having made up our minds.

This, I can tell you for a fact. No matter what the facts are, I'm going to -- I'm going to -- I want them to go wherever they take us, irrespective of what -- you know, what outcome it reaches, one way or the other.

My interests here are clear. And I don't think anyone has ever doubted the concern that I have about Russian interference. Back in October, I was running for reelection and it looked like my race was going to be very close. I may have been the only Republican in the country running for Congress who refused to discuss WikiLeaks, use it against my opponent, or use it against Secretary Clinton, because I said it was the work of a foreign intelligence agency.

I said it then. I believe it now. I think our report will lay that out and any other facts pertinent to that.

TAPPER: When you're looking for these facts, let me just ask you, if it -- if you come to the conclusion that President Trump fired James Comey because he wanted to relieve the pressure of the FBI investigation into his campaign team, would that disturb you? Would that be obstruction of justice?

RUBIO: Well, again, I think -- let me say it this way.

If any president tries to impede an investigation, any president, no matter who it is, by interfering with the FBI, yes, that would be problematic. It would be not just problematic. It would be, you know, obviously potential obstruction of justice that people have to make a decision on, any president.

That said, we don't know if that's what happened here. And we can't make that decision, and I'm certainly not going to make pronouncements at this level of magnitude, solely on the basis of what an anonymous source told the press.

I am not disputing the press accounts, but I am also not going to accept them, especially being in the position that I'm in, where we're going to have access to Director Comey, hopefully to the notes, and to all sorts of other information that will give us true, complete insight into all of this. That's only fair to the president. That's only fair to the country.

And -- but we need to go through the steps to get there. Otherwise, this appears political and partisan, and there will be ongoing doubts about whatever we find if we don't do it that way.

TAPPER: Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, thank you so much for your time, sir.

RUBIO: Thank you.

TAPPER: We always appreciate it.

RUBIO: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Coming up, hot seat, fired FBI director James Comey says he'll take questions from Congress. What will he reveal? Stay with us.


[12:17:45] TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

President Trump just delivered a major address to the Muslim world, the kickoff to his very first overseas trip. He left for Saudi Arabia, just as "The New York Times" was publishing a bombshell story that the president told the Russians that firing FBI director Jim Comey would relieve the, quote, "great pressure" he was under.

That account, based on notes taken inside of the Oval Office, is not disputed by the White House and it only increases the stakes for those investigating whether President Trump and his campaign team in any way had any ties to Russia.

I'm joined now by one of the top men working on Congress's investigation, Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committeee, Adam Schiff, Democrat of California. Thanks for joining us this morning.


TAPPER: So let's begin with President Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia. It was largely, it seems, a call for Arab and Muslim countries to do more to end support for terrorism. What was your general take?

SCHIFF: Two I guess opinions about it. First, you know, we certainly need to enlist the Islamic world in trying to fight the scourge of terror, and I think that part of the message is certainly the right message.

But I was also struck by the suggestion, and I think this is a broader element of the administration's policy, that they're going to de- emphasize issues of human rights, that what countries do within their own boundaries, we're essentially going to look the other way. That's not a high priority of ours anymore. The promotion of democracy, the promotion of human rights, is going to take a back seat. I think that would be a terrible abdication of our global leadership

when it comes to advocating for people who are the subject of persecution, or imprisoned, or journalists that are thrown in jail, or people not allowed to practice their faith. I think it would be a historic mistake for us to walk away from that.

And it was summed up I think most poignantly to me when Angela Merkel came to see the president, when one of the headlines read, "The leader of the free world meets Donald Trump." That's not what we expect of our president, and that needs to be -- human rights need to be nonetheless a top priority for the United States.

TAPPER: Let's turn to domestic issues and what's consuming most of the media here.

[12:20:00] In Washington, "The Washington Post" just started reporting a few day ago that the law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign team has identified a current White House official as a, quote, "significant person of interest".

Do you know of ways in which the investigation of the House Intelligence Committee also might reach any current White House official?

SCHIFF: All I can say on that subject, Jake, is that I think our obligation on a very bipartisan basis is to follow the evidence wherever it leads, not to exclude anyone, not to preemptively rule people in or out. But nonetheless to do a diligent job.

We're in the process of bringing witnesses into the committee, obtaining documents. We have an open hearing with former CIA Director Brennan on Tuesday. And we want to continue to doing this in the open as well as in closed session.

And that's our obligation. But at this point I can't tell you that X, Y or Z is the focus of our investigation. Certainly we're looking at the issue of collusion, and that's a key issue for us. We also want to make sure that we oversee the work of the Justice Department, make sure there's no impeding the investigation there. Another part of our key responsibility.

TAPPER: We learned this weekend that Michael Caputo, a former communications adviser to the Trump campaign, has been asked by your in -- your committee, the House Intelligence Committee, to submit to a voluntary interview and to submit any documents he may have that are related to the inquiry.

What are you and your committee hoping to ask Mr. Caputo?

SCHIFF: Well, I can't comment on any particular witness, but we certainly have sent out invitations to a significant number of people to appear before our committee.

TAPPER: How many people? SCHIFF: You know, I don't want to go into that level of detail. But I can say this, just in terms of the operation of our committee, there are no witnesses that we've asked to be brought in where we have been turned down by my GOP colleagues, and vice versa. So we have a strong level of cooperation. The witnesses that we've invited are in are just the first tranche of witnesses. We expect there will be many more.

But what you hope to do in a thorough investigation is start out by reviewing the documents, then bring in some of the earlier, potentially less significant, witnesses. And learn what you can from them and then bring in other witnesses. So that's the process that we're following.

TAPPER: Can you say whether or not anybody you've invited currently works at the White House?

SCHIFF: You know, I don't want to comment on anything that specific.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the bombshell report from "The New York Times". It was reported that when President Trump went behind the Oval Office closed doors with Russian officials, he told them that firing FBI director James Comey had relieved, quote, "great pressure on him". Let me read you President Trump's words according to this report.

Quote, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." Unquote.

What was your response when you read those comments?

SCHIFF: Well, I think I was shocked like everyone else that here he is, having a meeting with the Russians, his first meeting with the Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as Ambassador Kisylak, and rather than press them on their interference in our election, we see these images of them having a jovial time in the Oval Office. And he's telling them that he thinks the FBI director was a nut job, and that he's gotten rid of him to relieve the pressure on him.

And I see the spin that the White House is trying to put on this, that, well, he was communicating to the Russians that then he could work with the Russians on issues of importance.

If the representations are accurate, now, he was talking about removing the pressure on him, and of course that's very consistent with his interview with Lester Holt. But the fact that he'd be having this conversation with the Russians at all is mind boggling. The fact that the president of Russia, Putin, would be trying to validate him by offering his own transcripts is just head-spinning. But it does underscore just how ill prepared for this job this president was, but it also -- for those of us that are pursuing the Russian probe -- raises profound questions about whether he is trying to interfere or impede it in any way.

TAPPER: James Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee after Memorial Day. What do you want to hear him explain? What should your counterparts on the Senate side ask him about?

SCHIFF: Well, I think the most important thing, in light of the reports, are to find out was he being pressured by the president to drop any part of the investigation? I think those allegations concerning Mr. Flynn and whether the president asked him to essentially back off are among the most serious that we have heard. So I would like to hear from the director about that.

[12:39:55] I'd obviously like to find out if he kept contemporaneous notes of those meetings and whether there were any other interactions with the president that made him feel uncomfortable, that made him feel that the president was acting inappropriately or that was trying to interfere, impede, in the investigation -- with the investigation in any way.

I think that is likely to be the core of his testimony. I'm pleased that he will be testifying in open session. I think it's important for the public to hear this.

And if I could make one other point on this, Jake, because I know there's a lot of speculation with the appointment of Bob Mueller, who I think is a superb choice, that somehow this is going to mean that the congressional investigations are diminished or can go away. Far from it. The only thing that has changed is our enter point, our point of contact with the Justice Department. But at the end of Bob Mueller's investigation, if he makes a decision not to bring any charges, he's not likely to say a word about that decision. It's going to fall to the Congress to explain what we found and what we didn't. And even if it results in indictments by Bob Mueller, he may not be able to speak much beyond the four corners of those indictments. So we have very different responsibilities and both I think are enormously important.

TAPPER: Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, thanks so much for your time, sir.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Quote, "This makes me want to puke," unquote. What did President Trump do on his first foreign visit that inspired that reaction? From one of his long-time friends, that story next.



[12:30:48] TRUMP: America is prepared to stand with you in pursuit of shared interests and common security. But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them.


TAPPER: That was President Trump this morning in Saudi Arabia where he spoke directly to the Muslim world, encouraging their leaders to bolster their role in the fight against terrorism, will the message work? Let's talk to our panel. We have with us former Republican presidential candidate Rick

Santorum, Farah Pandith, the former State Department representative to the Muslim world, Bakari Sellers, a Democrat and former South Carolina state representative, and Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of the great state of Illinois, and the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Thanks one and all for being here. Faroff, let me just ask you, like, now that the speech has been given, what is the reception like in the Middle East?

FARAH PANDITH, FORMER STATE DEPT. REP. TO MUSLIM WORLD: So I think there are two key takeaways from the speech, one which is really powerful, the president talked about the ideas that underlie extremism. I think it's really important he put it out there.

He also said I'll do what it takes to make this happen, to defeat ISIS and the ideology. That's really powerful. The other key takeaway is that he spoke to the people in that room. He was speaking to the 50 Muslim-majority nations in that room. He was not speaking to Muslims around the world.

Everything that he said he wanted to do was good, but it was from the top-down. He wasn't asking for a change from the bottom-up. And in order to fight the ideology, you have to get the people in communities to actually work with you.

So there is a disconnect there in terms of the premise of what he said and how he is actually going to do things.

TAPPER: Although I should say...

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would argue the side of disconnect, because I think a lot of the leaders are fomenting a lot of the problems that we have.

I mean, we talked earlier about Saudi Arabia. I mean, speaking to the Saudis about having more liberalization within their country, not promoting radical forms of Islam, and those are -- I think to me, those were -- this speech was better than I thought it was going to be from all the hype that this was going to be more of a conciliatory speech and a very big change.

He did have some very strong language particularly at the end of the speech that I thought was good. But it was balanced. I mean, I would have given a tougher speech. I was hoping for a tougher speech. But I thought it was a very balanced speech. And I was overall pleased.

TAPPER: And there have been some disputes within Trump-world about the speech. Let me put up a tweet from Roger Stone, one of President Trump's confidants. He was not happy with the stagecraft of the trip.

He writes: "Candidly" -- this is the picture of the president getting an award from the king of Saudi Arabia, "candidly this makes me want to puke," and then says "#jaredsidea."

Really probably (INAUDIBLE) the trip by having at least more to do, I think, or at least equal parts to do with H.R. McMaster, the president's national security adviser, as Jared Kushner, but he definitely played a role. But that is some serious shade he threw at Jared.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Oh yes, well, look, this is I think Roger Stone's attempt to try to be relevant and make it in the news cycle. I don't think anybody really takes him seriously, I don't at least. I see that.

I mean, how are you going to get an award from the king? Does he have to actually then stand on a crate so that you don't have to bow and he can lower down upon you?

TAPPER: The president is 6'3" or 6'4", yes.

KINZINGER: Yes. I mean, it's silly. But, you know, I think the great thing, by the way, about what's going on in Saudi Arabia largely, I was very frustrated during the presidential campaign when we talked about how to defeat ISIS and you had, you know, for instance, Ted Cruz say, I'll just carpet bomb them until the sand glows.

The reality is now this is, I think, a recognition of the fact that, yes, there is a military component to defeating terrorism. But there is a component of -- this is not going to be defeated by the United States of America, it will be defeated by the Muslim world, rejecting the ideology of extremism.

And it will be defeated by taking that next generation of kids, the 7- and 8-year-olds, giving them education, giving them opportunity, and they can reject the recruits from ISIS that come into their camps and say, come on.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually with that point. And one of the things that we talked about throughout the campaign trail, and some of the rhetoric of Donald Trump -- because I don't think you can look at this speech in a vacuum.

Many people who saw this speech and compared it to the 2009 speech of Barack Obama saw a lot of similarities. You can even go back to George Bush and you saw a lot of similarities in the tone and language that was used.

But you can't look at this speech in a vacuum from who Donald Trump really is and what he said along the campaign trail. Is the person we saw today someone who wants the Muslim world to help us fight ISIS and combat terror?

[12:35:03] Is that the president who is going to be leading from this point forward?

Or is it the one, who, on the campaign trail, said that the Islam hates us, who was a proponent of the Muslim ban. And so I think that if we're going to have a conversation about Donald Trump and his future foreign policy going forward, we cannot just look at this speech in isolation. We have to look at the totality of everything that he said.

TAPPER: And let's go back to 2016 from when President Trump was very critical of Hillary Clinton -- or the Clinton Foundation raising money from Saudi Arabia. He wrote on Facebook: "Saudi Arabia and many of the countries that gave vast amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation want women as slaves and to kill gays, Hillary must return all money from such countries."

But today in The Wall Street Journal we learn the World Bank plans to announce on Sunday at an event with Ivanka Trump that Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have pledged $100 million collectively towards a fund for women who own or want to start businesses.

Obviously, the Clinton Fountain and this World Bank fund are different entities. But the money is the same, Senator.

SANTORUM: Look, I mean, having a fund to promote women, I mean, I think that's a positive thing...

TAPPER: Sure, absolutely.


SELLERS: Your (ph) hypocrisy is a joke right now because what happens is the Clinton Foundation literally had programs that helped women around the country, and they took...

SANTORUM: I understand.

TAPPER: Around the world.

SELLERS: Around the world, excuse me. And they had -- they took $25 million from Saudi Arabia, I believe, and the UAE. Here you have $100 million, imagine Brian Fallon announcing $100 million to the president's senior adviser who happened to be Chelsea Clinton. You would have a fit.

TAPPER: Let Senator Santorum answer the question.

SANTORUM: No, look, I agree that the double standard is there, I'm not arguing that. And it is what it is. I like the fact that the president went to Saudi Arabia. I like the fact that the president stood up there and laid out very much late in his speech what he -- the changes that need to happen to create more opportunity for women and for minorities, for other faiths.

I mean, he laid that out very, very clearly. And to me that's a positive thing. Could he and should he have been tougher? Yes. But he wasn't. And, you know, I'll take what I can get.

TAPPER: Farah?

PANDITH: The speech was very measured. It was very careful. He says things like, we're going to fight the financing, and that's -- everybody can applaud with that, but how are you going to follow that up? Is he going to look directly at Saudi Arabia and say, stop funding

mosques around the world? Stop bringing textbooks around the world?

SANTORUM: Yes, I hope so.

PANDITH: He talks about culture. It was a really special part of the speech where he gives -- he tips his hat to the cultural and the historic piece of the world that we're looking at, yet he doesn't say anything about Saudi's destroying cultural heritage sites around the world.

So there was a mismatch there. Indeed, there is one other thing that I think is really important. He gave the statistic, 62 percent or 65 percent of the Arab world, he said, was under the age of 30. Yet he didn't look into the audience and say, what are you doing with your youth? And here's what I'm going to do.

When you're talking about fighting extremism, and his words about wanting to do as much as he can, there were no deliverables in that speech about how he's going to do it.

TAPPER: Congressman?

KINZINGER: You have 33 minutes that he is standing in front of dozens of Arab leaders, talking his first major speech to this world. I can point out 1,000 things I wish were in the speech, but the speech would have been four hours long then.

I think what the president did was say, look, we have to destroy radical terrorism, we have to unite. I think behind the scenes is the appropriate time to be very effective and say, look, you know, the crown prince is trying some serious reforms right now in Saudi Arabia.

This is a very tough culture to move. It's not like they can just institute reforms and not expect there to be some consternation. So they are in a measured going forward approach, but I think behind the scenes is when you make the strong case.

When you're in front of 50 leaders is not the time to point out Saudi Arabia, but it's a time to unite folks to get...


TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break, very quick break. And then I'll come back to you.

President Trump brushing off impeachment talk, but his lawyers are secretly preparing just in case. What is the White House strategy to survive the onslaught of damaging news? That's next.



[12:43:32] QUESTION: Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also, as you look back...

TRUMP: No. No. Next question.


TAPPER: That was President Trump disputing a report this week that he fired FBI Director Comey precisely because he did not like the investigation into whether Trump's associates colluded with Russia in any way. It was a head-spinning week.

We've gathered some smart people this morning to help us sort through it. Congressman Kinzinger, let me start with you. There is -- you heard our interview with Marco Rubio, there is this growing, some of it hearsay, at least as of now, but growing body of evidence that the reason that President Trump fired Comey was stated with Lester Holt, stated with the Russians, according to that New York Times story, stated -- and then there's also the report of Comey and a memo saying that the president tried to get him to back off the Flynn investigation.

Does this concern you?

KINZINGER: It's all concerning. I think, you know, look, as a current member of Congress, I have to be careful because to make accusations and to assume based on what you have heard in the media, based on a report you haven't seen, we need all this investigation to make that case.

And that's why I actually called for the appointment of a special prosecutor the morning before it actually happened, because in my mind this thing has become so political.

Any new piece of news that comes out, I hear friends on the left that just scream impeachment, like, holy cow, that's irresponsible. And then some of my friends on the right are like, everything that comes out is fake and not real.

So I realize that I don't think -- no matter what happens it's going to going to be seen through the political spectrum of what your pre- conceived notion is.

[12:45:08] We need honest answers. It's not going to necessarily change what people think.

But one of my biggest concerns right now is not 2018, or 2020; it's the institution of the U.S. government. And the faith in government has been so under mined that I actually worry about stability in the long-term. So for me, this special prosecutor, special counsel, is the best way to try to get to an answer that most people can look at and say, I agree, disagree, whatever that turns out to be.

TAPPER: And in fact here's President Trump being asked at that press conference about impeachment. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: As you look back over the past six months or year, have you had any recollection where you have wondered if anything you have done has been something that might be worthy of criminal charges in this investigation or impeachment, as some on the left are implying?

TRUMP: I think it's totally ridiculous. Everybody thinks so.


TAPPER: Does it concern you when you hear voices on the left calling for impeachment? A Democratic Congressman from Texas did so a few days ago. When the evidence, the factual evidence, not just the circumstantial evidence or media reports, is not there yet.

SELLERS: Well, I do think you have to be cautious and I think you actually have to applaud the people on the right, like the Congressman, who actually have the courage to come out and say things like we need a special counsel, a special prosecutor. I hope that hurt you in reelection.


TAPPER: It's Illinois.

SELLERS: It's Illinois. But I also think that you have things like obstruction of justice -- and in my criminal law background, I can tell you what obstruction of justice is. And you don't have to look at conjecture, you don't have to have an opinion. You can just look at the president's own words and see that that, you know, you can build a legitimate case that that is obstructing justice. And moving forward, we know that the first two -- or the first articles of impeachment for both Clinton and Nixon were both obstruction of justice. And we do know that there's a lot of smoke in the White House, and usually where there's smoke, there's fire.

TAPPER: Senator?

SANTORUM: Well, first off, with all due respect to Adam, I was against a a special prosecutor. Special prosecutors have a history of prosecuting. Why? Because they have to justify their existence. I mean, you look at the situation with Fitzgerald. Who did they get? They didn't get -- they got Scooter Libby, which has turned out to be a scurrilous charge. I mean, the reality is, when you turn this from a counter-intelligence investigation, which is what it was under the FBI, to now a criminal -- at least according to what we're hearing -- a potentially criminal investigation, Bob Mueller has to justify his existence, which means he's got to find someone who did something wrong at some point in time.

And I don't think that's really an issue here. The issue is were the Russians -- what was the role of the Russians and the Trump campaign? What was the role of Russians in this country and this election? And we've now changed that to really the focus, I think, is going to be more on is there a cover-up? Because I don't think, at least from everything we're hearing, there's any evidence of collusion, there's any evidence from my perspective of having worked with the Trump campaign -- I'd be stunned that they were organized enough to collude with anybody.

So the idea that we have shifted this focus from it's about the Russians, what did they do, who did they work with, to what did the Trump campaign and who can we nail? That's a bad thing for the country.

TAPPER: Farah, what do you think is the reaction of world, of world leaders, to this going on here?

PANDITH: Well, I think they liked what they heard in terms of giving the ownership on talking about Muslims to Muslims. And I think that's really important. And the president was right to say that Muslims need to take the lead in pushing back against the violent extremist ideology.

But I think that there is some trouble as well, because what you didn't hear from the president were the cultural signals in that speech that I think -- you didn't see any, for example, applause during that speech. If you looked at the faces of the leaders, they were listening very intently, and some of that is cultural, but you didn't see the kind of recognition that you saw, for example, when President Bush or President Obama said some very similar things.

The president didn't do some things you would have expected culturally. He didn't open up a greeting with an Arabic hello to the group, which you would have expected in Saudi Arabia.

I want to see this president come back to America and put actions into words. So, for example, it is Ramadan almost, and is the president going to break tradition? Or is he going to keep tradition and have an iftar in the White House? If the president does something to extend a hand to Muslims, it will ricochet in a very good way back into communities. But if he keeps on his direction and says one thing but doesn't follow up with meaning, it is going to -- it's going to totally puncture any of the things that he said that were good and strong in this speech.

TAPPER: Senator, you wanted to make one point about this -- the speech today in Saudi Arabia.

SANTORUM: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) did the speech today not to the Muslim world, not to the leaders there, but to judges in this country who are looking at his immigration ban. It's going to be very hard now to just say, oh, this is a Muslim hater, he hates Islam, you know, he wants to ban Muslims. All he has to do -- all the solicitor now has to do is play parts of that speech, and you've now deflected that.

[12:50:04] TAPPER: All right, thanks everybody for being with here. Great panel. Really appreciate it.

After the break, a Caribbean estate is up for sale, being advertised as almost presidential and huge. Can you guess who the current owner is? It's this week's "State of the Cartoonian" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back. you know about Mar-a-Lago, but did you know President Trump owns another warm weather estate? That's right. It's a gilded mansion on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, and for the right price, it could be yours.

It's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonian".


TAPPER (voice-over): St. Martin is known for its beautiful beaches, splendid sunsets, and the Caribbean White House?

A mansion in the French territory owned bye President Trump was quietly put on the market this week, reportedly for a cool $28 million.

TRUMP: It's one of the most spectacular properties in the world.

TAPPER: The president purchased the house in 2013 and has primarily used it as a rental property since mounting his presidential campaign.

TRUMP: I don't care, I'm really rich.

TAPPER: The realtor, Sotheby's, has hinted at its famous owner in its advertising. "You'll feel almost presidential," Sotheby's said. "This property is huge."

TRUMP: It's not a huge amount of money, believe it or not.

TAPPER: It's not immediately clear why the president's trust is now selling the property. The sale might just result in another headache for the president.

TRUMP: If our presidents would have gone to the beach for 15 years, we would be in much better shape than we are right now, that I can tell you.

TAPPER: According to "The Washington Post", a wealthy Russian investor has expressed interest and recently toured the house. Maybe Donald Trump should look in a different direction. Word on the street is that a certain ex-president with plenty of Wall Street speech money has been hanging around with billionaires in the tropics.


TAPPER (on camera): Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. Go to for extras from the show.

I'm Jake Tapper in Washington. CNN's coverage of President Trump's first official trip abroad with Fredericka Whitfield continues right after this.


FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. It's 1:00 on the East Coast, 8:00 p.m. on Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where President Trump is right now.

[13:00:03] I'm Fredericka Whitfield in Washington, D.C. We want to welcome our viewers in the U.S. and around the world.