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Intel Panels Ready New Subpoenas For Flynn; House Dem Sees "Air Of Deception" From Trump; Speaker Ryan: Fired FBI Chief Not A "Nut Job"; Trump's Budget Slashes Social Safety Programs; First Lady Makes First Impression On World Stage. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 24, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First, take a look at the Senate Intelligence Committee. Now, two days ago, Genera Flynn, former nationality security adviser, informed the committee that he would be invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege and he would not be turning over personal documents. The committee responded in actually going after more documents, and what we're told according to a source close to the committee is they issued two subpoenas yesterday not seeking personal documents instead targeting two specific Flynn businesses, a much more tailored request, a much more tailored subpoena and their argument is business documents cannot fall under the umbrella of that Fifth Amendment privilege.

And as you noted, it's not just the Senate Intelligence Committee does continuing to pursue these documents, also the House Intelligence Committee. They have also been rejected by Flynn's counsel in terms of their initial ask. They will now also be pursuing a subpoena. So, as you know, John, this isn't going anywhere anytime soon not just on the Federal Investigation side but also on the Capitol Hill side.

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: Phil Mattingly live for us on Capitol Hill. Phil, thank you.

Democrats predominantly (ph) pouncing on more legal troubles for Michael Flynn. In their view, the longer the Flynn saga and the broader the investigation drags on, the bigger potential danger for the President.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I want to know what the President knew. I want to know what the Vice President knew. I want to know -- I also want to know what the Attorney General knew and I want to know when they knew it about Flynn and whether you want to the admit it or not, whether others want to admit it, there is an air of deception going on. I mean, all you got to do is look at what the President has been doing over and over again.


KING: You hear the lead democrat there in the House Oversight and Reform Committee Elijah Cummings who has been out there, I'm not sure Democrats want to be out there being so aggressive in what they're saying. But they are. They are in part because their base is demanding they hold the President accountable on this.

But what does it mean that you have now -- there was a question, would the committees on Capitol Hill pause and let Bob Mueller, the new special counsel, get up to speed, ask him for some guidelines, where can we go, where shouldn't we go. But you see at least for now on both the House and the Senate side Republican-led committees full speed ahead when it comes to pressings not just General Flynn for documents but other witnesses, as well.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Republicans aren't saying anything close to what Elijah Cummings just said. But put their words or their maybe relative public silence aside, it's their actions that matter. And the fact that both on the House and the Senate side they are being aggressive in trying to get not just testimony but more importantly documents from Michael Flynn, and to the point where on the Senate side, the Republican chair of the Intelligence Committee who many even Republicans who wanted to investigate this were quietly sort of rolling their eyes and saying, is this guy really committed to this investigation, talking about Richard Burr, is clearly committed now.

Standing side by side with the top Democrat yesterday saying that it is possible that if Michael Flynn doesn't give the documents that they want, they will hold him in contempt of Congress. That's pretty significant.

KING: Pretty significant. Even the subpoenas are embarrassing to the White House. But if you're talking about contempt, that's a signal. This was a very trusted adviser of the President, someone he still says he wishes he didn't fire.

KELSEY SNELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, we've been seeing Burr and Senator Warner who is a Democratic counterpart in the Senate probably (ph) being in lock step with one another. And the communication, I've not seen anybody on the Hill question whether or not they're communicating well or sharing information. There's a seriousness to the way that senators, particularly Republican senators, are responding when reporters ask them questions.

When this all started they wanted to avoid, avoid, avoid but they are getting closer and closer to saying things that it really call into question what the President is doing here.

KING: And that Republican -- the Republican attitude philosophies I guess, whatever you want to call it, has changed over the last 10 days to two weeks in part because of things the President has said and in part because of leaks that had come out including the President's decision to fire Jim Comey and then subsequent reporting that Comey had taken notes. And he believed on several occasions the President was pressuring him or suggesting he shut down parts of the investigation. That's where Republicans from the ballot next year start to pull back a little bit.

Now, this part of -- that I get to is both funny and not funny in the sense that we are told from reporting that in a meeting with Russian diplomats the President of the United States called Jim Comey a nut job. The former director of the FBI, the man he had just fired a career prosecutor, public servant, FBI director, that he called him a nut job. What happens to Republicans in these cases is like Speaker Paul Ryan, Ryan during an interview with Axios this morning, the President says things and guess what, leading Republicans get asked about them.


MIKE ALLEN, CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF AXIOS MEDIA: You know the former FBI Director Jim Comey. Does it concern you that the President referred to the former FBI director as a nut job?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Yes, I don't agree with that and he's not. I like Jim Comey. You know, I know that there are people who are, on both sides of the aisle, concerned about decisions he made. I think he was put into an impossible position.


KING: Breaking news, the House Speaker does not think Jim Comey is a nut job. And in fact goes on to say I like Jim Comey and that he was put in an impossible position.

[12:35:04] But my point here is, you see his jaw lock up when Mike Allen was asking the question. This is a nightmare for Republicans and this is the scenario they live every day in their lives when they go home to districts or when they confront a reporter in Washington is they have to have aides tell them what has the President tweeted, not on this trip overseas, but what did he tweeted or what did he said in the last 15 minutes that I'm going to get hammered about.

SNELL: It is been astonishing watching people get off the trains and Senate subways, senators the door is open, they see reporters and say oh gosh, what happened now. I've had those words said to me on many occasions in the past few weeks. They're just not prepared.

KING: And they feel like they're being put in an unfair position by the President.

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. But it's not just a nightmare for Republicans, although it certainly is that. It's really a nightmare for the White House, because this is an investigation for whatever reason the President desperately wants to go away. And as it proceeds and as more documents come out or subpoenas are issued or more leaks come out, what he does is he sort of does this bad behavior that got him into this situation in the first place. He causes up his Intel chiefs and asks them to pressure the FBI to drop the investigation.

So I think the real concern for Republicans is having to deal with this and get asked about this every day. But for the White House, as the President's mood spirals out of control, what else is you going to say? Is he going to move closer to obstructing justice in a tweet or private call? And that's the real risk. KING: This go as impulses because of his frustration lead him to say or do things that dance on the line if not cross the line. But one of the things the President has said repeatedly is that this is a hoax, this is phony, there was no collusion. At one point he said there were no contacts. That we've learned about dozens of contacts between Trump associates and the Russians so they had the backup on that.

But yesterday, quite serious testimony from the former CIA Director John Brennan who I think was -- gave the most detailed about the level of concern he says he had when he was looking at the intelligence coming into the CIA about contacts between Trump associates plural and the Russians during the election.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Frequently, individuals who go along a treasonous path do not even realize they're along that path until it gets to be a bit too late. And that's why, again, my radar goes up early when I see certain things that I know what the Russians are trying to do and I don't know whether or not the targets of their efforts are as mindful of the Russian intentions as they need to be.


KING: Now, if you're a Trump supporter you say John Brennan is one of the guys the President was attacking comparing to Nazis, blaming the Intelligence Community for leaks and John Brennan that's his payback. And if somebody knows John Brennan, you know, he served in the Bush administration, he served in prior administrations prior to that, this Bush for 25 years as CIA agent and operative. If you treat him as a public servant, when you hear him say treasonous path and things that worried me that I felt an obligation to pass onto the FBI, that makes you -- that gives you pause.

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Yes. The hearing yesterday, trade deal (ph) is against the Republican. So they treated Brennan like a hostile witness, you know, they really tried to prosecute his comments. Knowing he was an Obama appointee. But the detail he gave was hard to refute at times and became a big story in Republicans. He had a lot of detail and he seemed genuinely very concerned about Russian interference.

I don't get the sense he is the one who's wants to take Trump down. As much more like you said, he's a long time person in intelligence in national security. I think his credibility matters. And I think Brennan and people like Richard Burr as Dana was pointing are talking about the issues more in a civic way. And I think it's hard for Trump that he's dismissed the comments they are making.

BASH: And Jim Sciutto heard from a source close to Brennan that that word treasonous which was a, oh my god, jarring moment, was not an accident. He was very careful with his words and he used that on purpose.

KING: And remember, he repeatedly said when pressed by Republicans you have this information. I can't talk about it in a public setting. You have this information. You've seen classified information which may go back again to the thing you two were talking about is the Republicans have taken steps away from their president in the past week, 10 days. And there's a reason for that and they know it better than we do.

Everybody sit tight. Next, it's report card time for the latest Republican health care bill and the President's new budget is also getting graded. Here's three letters, DOA.


[12:43:08] KING: Welcome back. The burden and the political risks of governing are front and center for Republicans today. We're waiting for an important report from the Congressional Budget Office which later today, any minute hour, will offer its score of the latest GOP health care plan. What is that mean? It means its latest projections of how many people will lose coverage under the new House Republican plan whether premiums will go up or down. What impact the plan will have on the federal deficit.

We already know that plan is unpopular and as the Senate debates big changes there's also a new Trump budget toss into the mix and more dicey political choices. The Trump blueprint asks Republicans to significantly roll back the social safety net. The proposes, for example, $1.7 trillion in mandatory cuts to discretionary defense spending -- non-defense spending, excuse me. $193 billion in cuts from the Food Stamp Program. $800 billion in reductions in the Medicaid. That's including that health care bill. And it says it would balance the budget over 10 years.

The Budget Director Mick Mulvaney acknowledges painful cuts but says it's time for Washington to rethink how it writes its spending plans.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: I think for years and years, we've simply looked at a budget in terms of the folks who are on the back end of the programs, the recipients of the taxpayer money and we haven't spent nearly enough time focusing our attention on the people who pay the taxes. I've got a couple questions yesterday. I know a rule (ph) today about compassion. Compassion needs to be on both sides of that equation. Yes, you have to have compassion for folks receiving the federal funds but also you have to have compassion for the folks who are paying it.


KING: I get it. And if you're Mick Mulvaney and this was the message you believed as a House member who left one consecutive group to join a more conservative group and is from a district where you can sell this argument and in a lot of America, you can make the case to anyone so we want a kitchen table the government should live within its means. The problem is how to get there.

And so dead on arrival from even Republicans. Never mind the Democrats to this budget. However, it is a blueprint from the President of the United States that essentially Republicans say they'll use as a guidepost and it includes some pretty unpopular spending cuts.

[12:45:11] BACON: You know, we're calling it a blueprint from the President. I'll be curious when he comes back -- if he defends these cuts. But you know, this is a budget Mulvaney wrote, he's a very conservative person. He's called for a long time these kinds of cuts. The President in the campaign didn't call for these cuts. The budget is a starting point. I'll be curious if Donald Trump starts negotiating from the budget, his own budget once he gets back.

KING: But I don't think Mick Mulvaney is going rogue here.

BACON: No, I don't think he's being rogue here.

KING: He is one the President's favor actually. He is one of the people we view as -- you're told as a senate. But I think what he told the President is sir, you have to lay down a pretty bold marker here if you're going to get change. And he obviously got the President's permission to break a big Trump campaign promise on Medicaid spending, on Social Security disability payments.

BASH: A promise not to cut entitlements.

KING: Right.


KING: A promise not to cut entitlements but beyond the entitlements, you know, if you kind of look at the kind of voters, Americans that some of these cuts would hurt, many of them are Trump voters from Trump districts. So, you know, it will be interesting if and it's a big if, any of these really go -- become law, any of these cuts become law whether or not there will be backlash from people who say OK, I voted for you because you were different and because you were politically incorrect and because you were going to build a wall and because, you know, other reasons. But I didn't really think you were going to cut my help that I get from the federal government.

KING: But you said the lobbyists convinced Washington --

BASH: Exactly.

KING: -- to help the big guy and I'm going to go in and fight for the little guy. And so if you're a Trump voter in Nebraska it could be farm subsidies. If you're a Trump voter in other place, it could be Medicaid, it could be Social Security disability benefits.

A lot of -- like the two Republicans who chair the agriculture committees both say, sorry Mr. President, we'll going to rewrite your bill. You've seen other Republicans on different committee saying, sorry Mr. President, we'll use this as a general guidepost but we don't like this so we don't like that. But listen to this from Lindsey Graham who snob (ph) the State Department would lose about 28 percent, 29 percent of its funding under the Trump blueprint. You can say I think that's a bad idea or you can say this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, definitely dead on arrival. This budget if fully implemented would require us to retreat from the world diplomatically or put people at risk. You have a lot of Benghazis in the making if this thing became law.


KING: Excuse me? A lot of Benghazis in the making if this thing becomes law? That's not only -- that's a Republican, I mean, bing.

SNELL: He went further later. He said that -- what he thought instead we should be doing in Congress is he thought Republicans be cutting a spending deal with Democrats. That is a huge thing to say on the day that the President's budget comes out. You had Mitch McConnell the Republican leader of the Senate, you had John Cornyn, he's number two, we had Lindsey Graham and John McCain all saying, you know what, this budget, let's not even talk about it, let's talk about a spending deal with Democrats. That's a huge message.

KING: And at the same time, Trump cabinet members who are on Capitol Hill telling House Republicans abandon your speaker. Your speaker has the central element, border adjustment tax, it is tax reform plan, and they are saying abandon your speaker, run for him, run for him. We don't like this, we need you to pull the plug on Speaker Ryan's big dream of tax reform. So, Speaker Ryan was asked a little bit what he say about his relationship with the President.


ALLEN: You told me one time that President Trump referred to you as a boy scout. What did he mean by that?

RYAN: I took it as a compliment. I don't think it was meant that way. Yes, we're just different people, you know?


KING: That was Washington's best psychiatrist, Mike Allen, putting Paul Ryan on the couch. What do we make of that? I mean, it's hard to be him. Whether you like Paul Ryan or not, it's hard to be him.

PARKER: It's incredibly hard to be him. And he came in thinking that he sort of had the upper hand because the President was not a legislator, the President was not a policy wonk and he sort of felt like Republicans won, you know, Republican president or Republican House, Republican Senate, it would sort of be open season for in the weeds policy bills. That's not what we've seen at all. The President may not be detail oriented but he's not going to be rolled by House Republicans and certainly not Speaker Ryan.

KING: We'll pass them, he'll sign in philosophy has proven not to be true.

Everybody sit tight up. Next, even though President Trump getting high marks on his first international trip, there are some stops where you might say, he's getting upstaged.


[12:53:30] KING: Welcome back. Of course, it's not just President Trump making his debut on the world stage this week. The first lady gets her first chance on the international diplomatic circuit and she's getting some rave reviews whether it's in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia speaking with a group of women, or today at the Vatican, alongside her husband, the President. Melania trump has been more visible this week than at any other point during this young presidency. The first lady today even got a chance to dust off her Italian talking to kids at a Children's Hospital in Rome where she signed bandages and yes, it's a global phenomenon, took selfies.

What do we make of this? It's been interesting -- it's actually been fascinating because she's been in Washington so little because her son Baron is still in school in New York to see her so prominent. It is the first time we've seen her for an extended period of time every day.

PARKER: Yes. She's very much been a behind the scenes president, a very nontraditional role for a first lady. I mean, I -- but I think one thing she did very well which Michelle Obama showed us, you could do is send a statement and a message not even by saying anything just even through your fashion choices.

And so you saw in the Middle East, the media there in Saudi Arabia what she wore. She didn't cover her head. Lots of American women who go over don't cover their head or wear the Abaya. But her fashion choices sort of represented an Americanized version they sort of thought of the Abaya. It was modest, it was discreet, that sort of fit in with that look. And she won really rave reviews without, you know, having to say a single policy iota.

KING: Never mind that the President, her husband, criticized Michelle Obama for not doing that back in the day. They will stay in the hearing now in Amalaya (ph). There's one moment that had the internet almost broke the internet. I want to play it here. And let -- I want to -- we keep wondering if the internet can be broken. Watch.

[12:55:08] Now. Oh, I told Perry during the break that I think the men should stay out of this.

SNELL: I want to hear it. No way.


BACON: I tend not to (inaudible) without knowing more details about those evidence. So, I have no idea what she was doing.

BASH: I'm going to be counterculture here and give her the benefit of the doubt that it wasn't what we think which is get away from me that it was more you know, we were talking during the break, this is -- it's not an appropriate moment for --

KING: So they hold the moment is the march mode. There's a color guard out there that playing the anthems. This is a walk respectfully side by side moment. Not a couple's moment.

SNELL: I can see everybody tweeting right now.

KING: How dare you defend? Anyone else? Last word?

BASH: She understands. Look, she understands moments. She understands where the cameras are and aside from that very real, you know, kind of wince in the inauguration, I think this was probably not bad.

KING: There you go. That is the last word. OK, that is the last word. Thanks for joining us in "Inside Politics." Remember we're waiting to hear the President meeting with the Belgian prime minister. We should see tape of that meeting any moment. The news continues with my colleague Wolf Blitzer after a quick break.