Return to Transcripts main page


Source: Flynn to Plead 5th, Decline Senate Subpoena; Trump Appears to Comment on Russia Intel Sharing; Soon: Trump, Netanyahu to Speak. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 22, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- provide documents related to the Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election last year and questions of suspected collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. You may recall back in the heat of that campaign, it was General Flynn leading attacks on aides of Hillary Clinton who found themselves in legal jeopardy over her e-mails.


MICHAEL FLYNN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: The very last thing that John Podesta just said is no individual too big to jail, that should include people like Hillary Clinton. I mean, five people around her have been given immunity to include her former chief of staff. When you are given immunity that means you probably committed a crime. So, you know, I don't know how he can sit there and say something like that with all of the things that have been going around, just swirling around Hillary Clinton with her e-mail.


KING: If you're seeking immunity, it means you probably have committed a crime. Now of course it means no such thing and General Flynn said that. That was political rhetoric in the heat of the campaign. Now, President Trump said similar things.

It is smart when you're under investigation by the FBI and now the new special counsel to get a good lawyer and to not answer questions from a bunch of congressional committees because anything you say can and will as they say on television be used against you in the future investigations. So politically General Flynn looks like a hypocrite. More substantively what does this mean?

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: This means that, you know, the probe into Flynn is going to continue whether or not he gives the committee these documents. As Phil Mattingly said this wasn't necessarily unexpected, but this doesn't mean that they're going to be like, oh, well, too bad. Move along. This continues.

KING: This continues and the president is right now. The next time there's a White House briefing or a press conference whether it's the president overseas or his people talking, podium overseas or podium back here in Washington, why do you think General Flynn took immunity?

Do you support General Flynn taking immunity? Don't you want General Flynn to tell the truth? These things just have a way of not going away.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: And while legally it is, you know, sound advice not to say anything. Keep your mouth shut. Politically though, yes, he could have had the opportunity to come out there, say his peace, say it had nothing to do with it.

People could kind of look him in the eye and decide whether or not they believed him or not. I mean, he could have had a real moment to clear his reputation or better get his side of the story out there. You know, legally, that might not a good idea but politically in image wise, it could have helped because (inaudible).

OLIVIER KNOX, YAHOO! NEWS: (Inaudible) about taking the fifth, right not getting immunity. But the interesting thing -- I think what it does is it puts an additional layer of importance on Bob Mueller's independent investigation, what's going on with the FBI and the rest of it. It tells us that the biggest headlines, the biggest results from these investigations may not come from Congress. They may come from the professional investigators of FBI working for Bob Mueller. I think that we also suspected that after the announcement, but for me this adds another layer.

MICHAEL BENDER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: There have been some interesting steps from Flynn though in this -- as this process has played out. We saw the story in the New York Times last week about how Flynn supporters -- we can assume saying that they did notify the transition team that this investigation was happening. I don't know how that helps Flynn in this process.

When Flynn re-registered as -- not re-registered but when he finally registered his lobbying document, that seemed to me to sort of take away his argument that he correctly, you know, didn't register the first time. So I think this move, you know, don't tell the Senate, don't tell the House anything you don't need to, and no need for him right now to have this play out in Congress any more than it is. But I think there's been some interesting steps from Flynn along the way that not only is this going to continue but I think it's going to continue in some interesting and fascinating ways.

KING: And he's a central figure as it goes forward. I want to come back to this issue that the president is discussing right now with Prime Minister Netanyahu which was his decision to share, very sensitive Israeli intelligence in a meeting in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador to the United States. Now, I'll call this -- in politics they call it spin. There's an old saying you might know at home, trying to make chicken salad out of chicken.

You know what, listen here to the secretary of state and the national security adviser essentially trying to say there's no there, there.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think what the president was trying to convey to the Russians is look, I'm not going to be distracted by this. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The gist of the conversation was that the president feels as if he's hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia, to find areas of cooperation because this has been obviously so much in the news. And that was the intention of that portion of the conversation.


KING: I mixed up the context there. This is them talking about the president saying that Jim Comey, the former FBI director was a nut job. And that by firing him, he had relieved the pressure of Russia on the White House. Now, his team says that's just the president negotiating. Critics say that's the president sort of screening some intent to obstruct justice.

[12:35:02] BENDER: The problem is that that spin actually kind of spins them back into the criticism. Tillerson saying that he doesn't want the pressure of this and McMaster saying that he felt hamstrung. Well, you don't fire the guy looking into an investigation into your own campaign because you feel pressure. All right?

And even if that was the case, I suppose there is a world in which Trump honestly believed that Comey was mishandling this and mishandled several things along the way, but the problem is, obviously one of credibility. And if they find -- if there's any shred of evidence of collusion between Trump, Trump's campaigns and the Russians at this point, I think just cripples this administration.

KUCINICH: It also is not what they told the American people out of the gate what Trump said to the Russians. For Russians, we're getting I guess straighter talk than the American people and that is problematic.

KNOX: The interesting thing though it goes back, his first and only big formal press conference, he actually said exactly what McMaster said in that clip. He said -- he expressed deep frustration with his political inability to crack some kind of compromise with the Russians because of all this swirling talk because of the Russian investigation. It's kind of interesting to hear it come back, but I think your point is well taken that really kind of reinforces the problem here.

PETTYPIECE: And it sounds like (inaudible) too because how many different explanations are there going to be about why Comey was fired and how many different non-denial denials are there going to be saying. I did not say the world 'Israel' in that meeting with Russia. Well, no one says you did. When McMaster came out right after and says he didn't talk about strategy, we didn't talk about sources no. Well, no one said you did.

You know, get the story straight and get your denial in line with what's being said. And give us your side of the story too. So what did you say in the meeting?

KUCINICH: Well, McMaster I believe in that interview also said that it wasn't in the briefing material. BENDER: He said that repeatedly now that the president did not get sources --

KUCINICH: So he didn't even know.

KING: The president said (inaudible) -- let's step more broadly. I was amused that you watched the Sunday shows for people's context on big stories in Washington. And Marco Rubio who if you remember at last year campaign was one of those 'Little Marco' candidate Trump called him back in the race.

(Inaudible) if you try to follow the news the last 10 days even if you're an avid news reader, news (inaudible) or news consumer, on the internet, online, on the radio, you feel a little confused with everything that happened in the last 10 days. The firing of Comey. The different spin on that. Talk about the president, what he said in these meetings with the Russian diplomats. Marco Rubio saying if there's one guy who's not surprised in Washington, it's him.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I don't understand why people are that shocked. This president ran a very unconventional campaign. I was there for a big part of it in the beginning (inaudible) being one of his competitors. And that's what the American people voted for. And in essence, you know, this White House is not much different from the campaign. People got what they voted for.


KING: He sounds -- is that amusement? Is that just a --


PETTYPIECE: You know, who else isn't surprised by all the drama so people who have been with the president through the campaign, you know. And from the very beginning, they said it was however many months of crisis of the day, craziness, he can't do this, the media attacking us, it was nonstop every day for that campaign and it will be that way for the next four years, then (inaudible) buckle up for a (inaudible) ride. That's what they're doing.

BENDER: Well, it depends what the expectation here is, right? Because people expected Trump to be a different kind of politician, and some of the things that he says are not shocking. But I think there may have been an expectation that a different kind of politician will get different results in Washington. And so far in his 120 days we haven't seen that.

KING: Haven't seen that throughout 120 days. Everybody, stand by. We're expecting to hear momentarily from President Trump and the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. We'll be back in just a moment.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [12:42:35] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name 'Israel'. Never mentioned it during that conversation. They're all saying I did. S o you had to know the story wrong. Never mentioned the word 'Israel'.


KING: President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a short time ago speaking in Jerusalem. I want to welcome our international viewers joining us here on "Inside Politics." We're waiting to hear from the two leaders. They're in a meeting right now at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. They're supposed to have dinner a bit later.

We're expecting brief remarks from the prime minister and the president before that dinner. We will take you there live as soon as the two leaders are ready to speak. That conversation was about a -- shall we say, a source of tension in the relationship at the moment. The president a week or so ago in a meeting with Russian diplomats shared some top secret Israeli intelligence about ISIS. Intelligence that he was not supposed to share. Intelligence that had not been shared with other U.S. allies.

But both leaders here I think is very interesting. This is their first meeting in Israel. These two men who know each other. Two men, who, yes, have some differences but who have a lot of shared interests and a lot of friendship.

And the prime minister trying to do the president a favor. They're (inaudible) the president essentially confirming it was Israeli intelligence that was shared at that meeting. He said I just never said 'Israel'.

BENDER: You saw the smirk from Netanyahu as he said that too. I think this also raises a question of what Trump is going to bring back after this trip here. It seems to me so far it's going to be one of optics. He needs to start of perform presidential -- in a presidential manner in order to -- and bring back some reviews that he's capable of doing this.

The deal we saw with the Saudi arms deal wasn't all that unusual. That would have happen under President Obama. The business deals that came out of that were either already in the works or had already been announced. I mean, maybe we'll -- it's unlikely that Middle East peace is going to be solved in this dinner tonight, you know.

So -- and what he got good reviews for in the first couple days was basically staying on script and not talking to the media. Here we have the first time he's out in front of reporters and essentially confirming reports through the back door that he's trying to deny.

KING: But also happy I think to get the prime minister point. But if anything it's a key point you make because you judge these trips in the moment but then you circle back in six months or a year and say what did you get from it. If nothing else he has turned a page in the chapter where President Obama was urging people in the region and some of them did it holding their nose. But try to open a dialogue with Iran.

[12:45:02] Try be more friendly with Iran or at least be more open to Iran is not as bad as you think. And if we negotiate this nuclear deal, perhaps Iran to be slowly enticed back into the responsible community. President Trump has said forget that.

Now, we don't know what they're going to do about the Iran deal -- right now they are even -- they say Iran is in compliance. We don't know what will happen down the road there. But that's the biggest change, right? Now I want you to have a tougher posture toward Iran.

PETTYPIECE: Right. I mean, I've kind of been talking about how he flip flops on a lot of things (inaudible) consistencies. But yes, I think Iran is one consistent theme we've heard here and the other consistency I think as people try and look at this trip and figure out what is this foreign policy going forward, we're not going to bug you on human rights. Do your thing. That's not our game. You know, maybe we'll pressure you behind the scenes at some point, but on human rights we're going to leave it alone. So, those are the two consistencies i think people can get from this trip.

KNOX: They're enforcing the Iran deal. They have had multiple opportunities to try to roll it back. They could have not signed over the recent waiver on sanctions.

What they're doing is they're taking on Iran and on these other issues. And the thing about that is that wasn't until the Obama administration position on this stuff. In the last few months of the Obama administration, their solution to arising Iran because they knew that Iran would use money to fund its proxies and extremist groups was an arms race. They were going to arm the Saudis which now Donald Trump has done and they were going to keep Israel's military edge. So we're not -- it's not -- I don't know what they're going to do on the Iran deal either but so far they're basically enforcing it while trying to take out Iran's ballistic missile capabilities through economic means. So we don't really know what that's going to look like in six months.

KING: Another thing we don't know is what if anything this president can do to actually get the parties back to a peace process as opposed to saying we would like to talk peace. But they're not talking peace. They haven't talked peace in some time.

He's in the meeting now with Prime Minister Netanyahu. One of the things that had foreign the policy establishment rolling his eyes is (inaudible) with this president because he's different is when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here in February, you touched on this a bit earlier Jackie. Let's listen to the president here when he's asked, do you favor the two state solution? Meaning, an independent Jewish state of Israel and an independent Palestine? Do you favor that two state solution as the ultimate resolution?


TRUMP: So I'm looking at two state and one state. And I like the one that both parties like. So as far as the embassy moving to Jerusalem, I'd love to see that happen. We're looking at it very, very strongly. We're looking at it with great care, great care, believe me. And we'll see what happens.


KING: Now, on the last part he has listened to the foreign policy establishment and he is not going to push that on this trip because they know that would incite the Palestinians. If you move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, they're essentially accepting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That's supposed to be left for (inaudible) negotiations. Welcome to the Middle East Mr. President.

On the first one, the ambassadors roll their eyes and even mock the president when he says one state, two state, (inaudible). But there are some people who actually think a guy's who's not so bogged down in the details but who does broad promise of a deal. But maybe that's the circuit breaker that it needs.

KNOX: There are a lot of foreign policy people -- and (inaudible) who think that bringing the two state solution down to one of the options was a good move because the Palestinian government has simply crumbled. It's not what it was 10, 15 years ago. Certainly not what it was when George W. Bush endorsed the two state solution.

And I think that the settlements likewise have grown so much that the premise of the two state solution now are just not workable. You can't have this agreed -- mutually agreed upon land swaps just because the settlement have grown so much. And in such a way to cut off some (inaudible).

So it's actually when he says two state, one state, I'll do the one what the parties want, what he's really saying is I recognize the situation on the ground has changed dramatically and I'm keeping the traditional U.S. role of sort of being -- trying to be an honest broker. That was the same when he told Netanyahu to Netanyahu's surprise to hold off on settlements for a while. Now, I'm not trying to translate from Trump into establishment here, but the idea of bringing the two states solution down towards one of many options isn't as unconventional as it might sound.

BENDER: I was just going to say, this is like one of the dangers things about Trump even from the campaign. He's the guy makes some sense on a lot of things. The problem here is going to be execution and whether or not he has the focus and the energy and the attention to see that through.

KING: And whether the other leaders involved, again, have the political strength, the political capacity and will to do what's left. You mentioned about one of the reasons Netanyahu won't come back to the table, he says he doesn't have a partner. One of the reasons the Palestinians won't come back to the table, they think that Netanyahu is not serious.

So it's not no matter how hard the president tries is not all about him but we'll see. We're waiting to hear again from President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. We expect them to come out, speak very shortly in Jerusalem. We'll be back after a quick break.


[12:54:05] KING: Welcome back. Again, we're waiting to hear from President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They are in Jerusalem. We're told now those remarks likely to slip until just past the top of the hour.

As we wait for the two leaders to come out, let me just go around the table quickly to close the program here. Saudi Arabia yesterday, Israel today, the president goes on to a meeting with the Pope. They have some tensions over immigration and other issues. The G7 and the NATO summit. What are we looking for?

KUCINICH: I think an error free performance here from the president. And it feels like the pitfall because it's the places he couldn't made the biggest mistakes (inaudible) at this point. And we also (inaudible) but so far, so good from the president.

BENDER: I'd say let's keep our eyes back here for the moment. Trump has sent back to chief of staff and his chief strategist back to Washington, D.C. Nothing inherently wrong with that but can they get the ship straight here in D.C. for when the president comes back?

KING: Right, including tomorrow rolling out a budget with $800 billion in Medicaid cut. You see the pictures there on the screen where we'll see when the president and the prime minister speak. It will be right there so keep your eye on that. Sorry, Olivier?

[12:55:05] KNOX: Of course you're correct that you can't judge a trip only in the moment. You've got to circle back six months later, a year later, four years later to see what concretely came out of the summit. But watch the NATO summit.

The president is due to announce a new Afghan troop surge or at least to review the policy. That's done. We're going to hear that either at the NATO summit or once he's back state side. That's really concrete. We're going to find out whether he's willing to plunge thousands more Americans into a conflict there.

At the G7, the most likely area of tension will be sanctions on Russia. Let's see whether he -- if the president pledges to keep those sanctions in place until Russia's behavior in Ukraine is changed. That will also be an in the moment thing to watch.

KING: A long list of consequences still to come.

PETTYPIECE: I think this administration benefits a lot in expectations game. I think the expectations were low going into this trip given the swirl of drama domestically. As Jackie was saying it goes through without any major gaps. I think it will be held as a great success similar to his joint address. He gave a solid centered speech and people said it was the best speech he'd ever given.

KING: This president now is on the world stage. (Inaudible) low expectations and we'll judge them all equally by that what they do. You see right there the president and the prime minister is due to speak at Prime Minister Netanyahu's residence shortly. Stay with us right here. Thanks for joining us on the "Inside Politics." Those remarks coming up in just a few minutes. Wolf Blitzer takes over our coverage in just a moment. Have a great day.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington, 8 p.m. in Jerusalem. Wherever you're --