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STATE OF THE UNION

Trump-Russia Probe Deepens; Interview With South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; Interview With New Jersey Senator Cory Booker; Interview With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; JFK's Legacy 100 Years After His Birth. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 28, 2017 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:18]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Close to home, President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, now a focus of the Russia investigation, after reports he tried to set up a secret back channel with the Russians.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job.

BASH: Just how far does Trump's loyalty go?

Plus, Hillary's back.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You know what? I'm doing OK.

BASH: Revealing how she felt watching Trump's inauguration.

CLINTON: I won't lie. Chardonnay helped a little, too.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: Is she setting herself up to face him again?

And:

MARILYN MONROE, ACTRESS (singing): Happy birthday, Mr. President.

BASH: On the 100th anniversary of JFK's birth, we look at his legacy and the future of his famous family.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.

BASH: Are the Kennedys eying a return to Camelot?

Plus, the best political minds will be here on what happens next.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is wheels down.

President Trump returned last night from his nine-day trip abroad. He refused to give a single press conference throughout the trip, allowing him to avoid questions about thorny issues developing stateside, including news that his son-in-law, top White House staffer Jared Kushner, sought to develop a line of communication with the Russians that could not be monitored.

It will be harder for the president to spurn reporters here at home, as he discovered upon returning last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Mr. President, did Jared try to set up a back channel to the Russians?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So, now that the president is back in town, can he get his agenda back on track, or does this ever-expanding Russia investigation risk permanent derailment?

Let's talk with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who joins us from Clemson.

Senator, so much -- thank you so much for being here on this holiday weekend.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.

BASH: Let me just start with the president's trip.

He just wrapped up a nine-day visit to Europe and the Middle East. This is how he summed up his trip. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Through setting. And that's what we're going to have. We're going to have a lot of strength. But we're going to have a lot of peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: So, you have been highly critical of the president's plan to cut funding for the State Department. What do you make of the president's argument that beefing up the military should be the priority?

GRAHAM: Well, it really should be.

And I support the arms sale to Saudi Arabia. We need to beef up our allies' ability to help us in the war on terror. I thought it was overall a good trip, reassured Israel, good message to -- to Saudi Arabia. NATO needs to pay more, but it's probably the wrong venue at the 9/11 memorial.

But soft power was your question. Twenty-nine percent reduction in State Department funding, that takes soft power off the table. All the things we have done in Africa to eradicate AIDS is compromised. Our ability to help partners like Jordan, front-line states like the Ukraine and the Baltic nations have really been severely limited.

So, destroying soft power does not make us safer. And that's what his budget does.

BASH: Senator, let's turn to the bombshell report from "The Washington Post" that Jared Kushner and the Russian ambassador discussed the possibility of setting up secret communications, a channel, with Moscow.

And Evan McMullin, the former Republican staffer who had a brief run for president, he tweeted that the report is -- quote -- "treasonous activity, whether born of malice, naivete or both."

Do you see it that way?

GRAHAM: Well, number one, we're chasing our tails as a nation when it comes to the Russians.

I don't know who leaked this supposed conversation. But just think about it this way. You have got to ambassador to Russia reporting back to Moscow on an open channel, hey, Jared Kushner is going to move into the embassy.

I don't trust this story as far as I can throw it.

BASH: In what way? Why don't you trust it?

GRAHAM: I think it makes no sense that the Russian ambassador would report back to Moscow on a channel that he most likely knows we're monitoring.

The whole storyline is suspicious. I have never been more concerned and suspicious about all things Russia than I am right now, so I'm not going to jump to the conclusion that Mr. McMullin jumped to.

BASH: So, you think that it is possible that what the ambassador, Kislyak, said to Moscow was on purpose, because he knew that he was being monitored, and -- and not accurate?

GRAHAM: That's a possibility.

Well, look at this way. Apparently, the FBI director intervened in the elections in July 2016 based on a fake e-mail generated by the Russians from the Democrats to the Department of Justice trying to shut down the e-mail investigation of Clinton.

[09:05:10]

If that was fake, why don't you think this is fake? I'm not so sure the e-mail that Comey relied upon was fake. But I can tell you this. He never briefed the Congress, the Judiciary Committee about any fake e-mail.

What he told the Intelligence Committee about this e-mail, he never suggested it was fake. So, if he intervened in the election -- election based on fake information generated by the Russians, that was an incredibly incompetent thing to do. So I don't really know who to believe anymore.

BASH: You said recently that you want to know more about President Trump's business dealings and any potential ties to Russia.

GRAHAM: Yes.

BASH: Is it time to subpoena the president's tax returns, Senator?

GRAHAM: We're not there yet.

But I do want to know where they got their money in 2008 and '9, when most people were struggling with the real estate investments.

But back to Comey, this is a huge deal. There's a report out now by CNN that the FBI director knew that the information he relied upon to jump into the 2016 election was fake, that he basically took over the Department of Justice's job based on a fake e-mail from the Russians.

That, to me, is a stunning story. From a Congress' point of view, he never told us it was fake. So, he needs to be held accountable. And if it were not -- if it is not fake, we need another investigation.

BASH: Senator, if I may follow up, because that was our reporting, he allegedly didn't tell Congress it was fake or not or it didn't matter to him. Whether or not he told Congress is one. That is separate.

GRAHAM: Matters to me.

BASH: Because -- because he felt that he couldn't talk about it anyway because it would give up sources and methods.

You don't buy that?

GRAHAM: No, because he did talk to Congress about it. He didn't talk to the Judiciary Committee. He talked to members of the Senate and House Intel Committee that he was sitting on e-mails that the Russians had between the Democratic Party and the Department of Justice that were highly explosive.

That was the main reason he jumped in, in July to take over the investigation, because he thought the Department of Justice was compromised, and he never once told a member of the House or the Senate that he thought the e-mail was fake.

If he did in fact believe it was fake, he should have shared that with the Congress, because we have oversight over him. I can't imagine a scenario where it's OK for the FBI director to jump in the middle of an election based on a fake e-mail generated by the Russians and not tell the Congress.

BASH: Can I just follow up on what I asked you about tax returns?

GRAHAM: Sure.

BASH: You're talking about the fact that you have a lot of doubts about the issues and the questions surrounding the president and his aides and so forth.

But a tax document should not be something that is questionable. It is a legal document.

GRAHAM: Right.

BASH: So, why is it too soon to take a look at those tax returns and use your power in Congress to subpoena them?

GRAHAM: Number one, I don't have any business dealing before me between the Trump Organization and Russia that seems to be inappropriate.

Do I want to look and see if they are? Yes. Now we got the special counsel. I don't want to get in his lane. The special counsel, Mr. Mueller, has independent responsibilities to investigate all things Russia. So does the Congress. We need a deconfliction meeting.

But I want to get back to the idea that the FBI director's decision to jump into the election and say that Hillary Clinton did not commit a crime, but she was pretty much incompetent, was based on a fake e-mail from Russia.

He never told anybody in Congress, which is stunning. And, at the end of the day, if the Russians are this sophisticated, we need more sanctions yesterday against the Russians. Or is, in fact, this a true e-mail? I want to get to the bottom of it. I want to see the e-mail.

BASH: Before I let you go, Senator, President Trump seems to be leaning towards leaving the Paris agreement on climate change.

GRAHAM: Right.

BASH: During your presidential campaign, you challenged your fellow Republicans on this issue of climate science.

Do you think it would be a mistake for President Trump to pull out of the Paris agreement?

GRAHAM: It's a voluntary agreement. It doesn't require cap-and-trade measures to be imposed on our economy. It's all voluntary.

If I were in, I would stay in the agreement and make it a better deal for worldwide business interests, to improve the climate, better deal for business. But if he does withdraw, that would be a definitive statement by the president that he believes climate change is a hoax.

Stay in the deal, make it a better deal, would be my advice.

BASH: And so, if he pulls out, what does that mean to you? GRAHAM: It means that the leader of the Republican Party is in a

different spot than the rest of the world.

It would be taken as a statement that climate change is not a problem, not real. That would be bad for the party, bad for the country. Stay in the agreement, because it's voluntary, and try to make the world respond to better business practices when it comes to cleaning up carbon.

[09:10:05]

BASH: Senator Lindsey Graham, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BASH: New reports that President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, wanted a secret way to communicate with the Russians. Why did he want to be off the grid?

That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:14:24]

BASH: Welcome back.

President Trump back in the White House this morning after his first trip abroad while in office.

This morning, the president gave his own assessment of the trip, tweeting: "Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work, but big results."

But questions from Europe's leaders and investigations back home have given Trump's opponents a bit more pause.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And I'm joined now by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

And, Senator, you are in Poland this morning. President Trump just returned from Europe.

And Sebastian Gorka, who's one of the president's advisers, said that the president in just 10 days has changed the geopolitical reality wherever he went.

[09:15:05]

What's your assessment?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, I have a lot of concerns that his whole trip, unfortunately, wasn't confronting a lot of the core issues that are on the concerns of folks, not just in Eastern Europe, but even in the Middle East.

We have a lot of human rights concerns, and for him not to talk openly and candidly, really breaking with traditions that go back from Ronald Reagan all the way to his predecessor, Barack Obama, not talking about the real human rights concerns in Saudi Arabia, it's almost like reducing America from its light and hope that it presents to the world to just a utilitarian kind of transactional relationship.

And, here in Europe, there are a lot of folks looking to hear things from him, whether it's his commitment to Article 5 of our treaty with NATO and -- or even just talking to large issues of climate change.

He really missed a lot of opportunities to add to the security or add to the important urgency we have in meeting Russian aggression.

And, to me, it's -- it's starting a very bad pattern for this president.

BASH: Senator, Russia's ambassador to the U.S. told Moscow that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, wanted a secret communications channel with the Kremlin.

Are you with the DNC in wanting Jared's security clearance to be suspended?

BOOKER: Well, I think this should really raise a lot of concern, and I think the -- the sort of media around this is not overblown, in the sense that you have Republicans and Democrats coming out and saying, hey, wait a minute, that's very problematic.

And so we need to get to the bottom of what was going on. There needs to be an investigation. There needs to be answering of the obvious questions that are arising.

But, again, to me, what's worrying me are the patterns we're seeing. So, one is this administration not talking about our values, cozying up to authoritarian leaders. And the other pattern we have is just this continuous drumbeat of inappropriate contacts with the Russians...

BASH: But, Senator, in the meantime -- in the meantime, while there's an investigation...

BOOKER: ... and all under the larger cloud...

BASH: In the meantime, while there's an investigation, should Jared Kushner's security clearance be revoked or at least suspended?

BOOKER: Well, again, I think we need to first get to the bottom of it. He needs to answer for what was happening at the time.

It raises very serious concerns for me. And that could be a potential outcome that I seek, but I want to understand, at least hear from Jared Kushner, as well as the administration, about what was exactly going on there. BASH: Senator, you've always prided yourself on reaching out to Republicans. When you first came to the Senate, you had dinner with Ted Cruz. You even wrote a book about finding common ground.

So, let me ask you about what's going on in the Senate right now, which is they're considering the future of Obamacare. Have you personally reached out to any Republicans to try to come up with a bipartisan solution?

BOOKER: Yes, I've had a lot of conversations with Republicans, frankly, on both sides of Congress, and, frankly, really frustrated that there seems to be this desire to kill the Affordable Care Act.

And, please understand, even before we talk about the legislation, this administration is doing things that are endangering the markets. They're failing to enforce the individual mandate. They're doing things that cause uncertainty for insurance companies.

And so this is a very bad climate. And I've definitely been reaching out and having conversations with folks about, hey, let's come together, not to destroy Obamacare, not to get rid of it, but to fix the problems and try to make it better for everybody.

But, unfortunately, we haven't seen any of that desire. The Republicans right now in the Senate seem to be going off on their own, trying to come up with some legislation. And what passed out of the House of Representatives, we now see what the CBO says. It's a disastrous piece of legislation that will put tens of millions of Americans' health care in peril, and then, on top of that, frankly, giving the wealthiest amongst us tax breaks, to yank health care away completely from some of the most vulnerable of our citizens, seniors and children.

So, this is a craven -- what we've seen is a craven efforts on the House -- amongst the House Republicans. And now it doesn't seem like there's a climate in the Senate to doing the right thing, which is keeping health care for millions of Americans, taking the advances we've made under the Affordable Care Act, and making them better in a bipartisan way.

That's what we should be doing. And that's what I'm hoping we eventually get to, at least in the United States Senate.

BASH: Senator, Hillary Clinton reemerged this week with a major speech at Wellesley College, and she talked about the mood on the campus back in 1969, when she was still a student.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We were furious about the past presidential election...

[09:20:05]

(LAUGHTER) CLINTON: ... of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: ... after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now to be clear, Nixon was never impeached by the full House. He resigned before that happened.

But, present time, are Democrats getting ahead of themselves by imagining the demise of Trump's presidency?

BOOKER: Well, first of all, cut Secretary Clinton some slack. People who want -- might want to criticize her, listen to the whole speech.

It was a very beautiful speech, many inspiring words for our folks. And we often take little sound bites out. And this was an incredible speech...

BASH: No, and that -- to be clear, that wasn't a criticism.

BOOKER: ... by a woman with an incredible career.

BASH: That wasn't a criticism. That was a question about whether you agreed.

BOOKER: Oh, I just want to tell you right now I'm not going to rush to impeachment.

I think we need to deal with this in a very sober way. This can't be a re-litigation of an election that has now passed. This has to be about an objective assessment about the facts that are going on right now.

And all I know is, I'm very satisfied that we have an independent investigation now going on through the Justice Department, as well as both houses are -- seem to be moving, not as fast I'd like, but moving towards an -- independent congressional investigations.

We need to make sure that the United States of America is protected. We had -- nobody disagrees with the fact that the Russians attacked us in terms of their cyber-attacks, and we need to get to the bottom of what happened.

And if there were Americans that colluded with the Russians to undermine our democratic processes, they should be held to account.

BASH: Senator Cory Booker, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

BOOKER: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Fighting Trump -- what the Windy City is doing to buck President Trump's immigration policy.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:26:17]

BASH: Welcome back.

President Trump introduced his budget this week, which includes $2.7 billion for immigration enforcement, border security and the wall.

The proposal targets sanctuary cities as well, calling for local police to follow federal immigration laws if they want to receive government money.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is bucking the president's new orders and he has launched a new ad campaign promising the Windy City will continue to welcome immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAHM EMANUEL (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: It's incumbent for us to use our voice to make sure that those who are dreamers, those who have called Chicago home, those who may not have all their papers in order are welcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Joining me now is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Thank you so much for joining me, Mr. Mayor.

I want to start with some...

EMANUEL: Dana, thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

I want to start with some statistics. Immigration-related arrests are up 38 percent under President Trump, but deportations were actually higher during the first four months of last year, when President Trump (sic) was still in office. And I don't remember you complaining about deportations when the Democrats were in charge, so why now?

EMANUEL: Yes, I think you meant President Obama.

But, that said, what -- the whole purpose here is because our -- the kids that go to our schools, the dreamers, all the kids, we have 140 languages spoken in our schools. Those kids and their families are frightened. And it's incumbent, as a city, whether you're from Ireland or India, Poland or Pakistan, Mexico or Moldova, where my grandfather came from, those children are part of the Chicago family, and their parents are doing -- working incredibly hard. They sacrifice, they struggle so their kids could not only come to a place called America, but specifically Chicago.

And I think Chicago will always represent the promise of America. If you believe that tomorrow can be better than today, you are welcome here. And I want those families to know and their children to know that, if you believe in America and you believe in tomorrow, which is what we always believe here, you are welcome.

And it's not just being a sanctuary city. It's being a welcoming city that it was to my grandfather 100 years ago, when he came to Chicago fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe, and he was only 13 years old.

That is not only our past. If you look to the future, immigrants are a vibrant part of that future. And I want them to feel welcome here, because it is who we are as a city. It is everything that has built the city, out of many, one.

BASH: The Trump administration is asking Congress to require local police officers to enforce federal immigration law.

Now, under this new law, local law enforcement would have to hold undocumented immigrants after they would normally be released from jail, so that federal agents can pick them up.

Will you order cops in Chicago to comply with that?

EMANUEL: Look, you know the values. First of all, this is all in court.

You know our position. And it's not just Chicago, but it's big, small, medium-size cities across the country, from every part of the country.

We're going to do law enforcement the way we do it, which is community policing. Our police department, if we were to ever be subject of some sense of scrutiny by the community, they won't come forward.

Your safety on the streets is built on relationships between community and police in a level of trust. And if you violate that trust, you violate the ability to accomplish what you want. So, no.

BASH: But if it ends up...

EMANUEL: I mean, the police department and all -- well, you're asking me a hypothetical. The court's about to decide that decision. They have already made some implication that the administration way overshot the runway.

They have now had to recalibrate. And I believe we're not only on solid legal ground.

[09:30:00]

The city of Chicago like New York, L.A., Boston and other cities that have (INAUDIBLE) been welcoming cities, are on solid moral (ph) ground (ph).

BASH: Mr. Mayor, I want to show our viewers a flyer, which according to local Chicago reports are cropping up in Chicago neighborhoods with large numbers of African-American residents. It says, "Ice Em."

The flyers basically say that sanctuary cities endanger the livelihood of every American while violating federal law and destroying the black community. It's no secret that you've had some problems with the black community in your city, what do you say to that sentiment that this flyer is trying to put forward that it seems as though they're worried that you're trying to help one group at the expense of another?

EMANUEL: Well, first of all it's -- I disagree with your characterization and your question fully, but that said, bringing people together is exactly what the company One Chicago is about. And the first ad if you would look at is immigrant -- a refugee, actually, was from Somalia and about how Chicago welcomed him and then his family joined him. And in fact, we launched this campaign at DuSable Museum on the south side of the City of Chicago.

Sure, there are people that will try to play divisive politics. My job as mayor is to find that common grown and inspire to our better angels, rather than try to use politics to divide people and assume that one group means that you lose. It's not true.

BASH: Mayor Emanuel, unfortunately, as you know, Chicago is the second deadliest city in America.

On multiple occasions, President Trump has tweeted that if you can't handle the situation, you need to ask for help and he will give it to you. I know that you are now pushing to hire more police officers. But some are asking why didn't you do that sooner?

EMANUEL: Yes, well, truth is, we have actually added officers and we're also getting kids, guns and drugs off the street. And I know they -- "The Wall Street Journal" noted a recent story about the progress that's been made in exactly doing what we're supposed to do, which is crack down on the shootings and actually we are this year, we're down 14 percent on shootings. And toughest neighborhoods on the south and west side that -- where this is predominant, the gun violence, we're seeing more dramatic reductions in that effort, so in fact we're making that type of progress.

BASH: I can't have Rahm Emanuel on and not talk a little bit of politics with you. So let's go back to 2006, when you led Democratic --

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: CNN -- (INAUDIBLE) you guys talking (ph) a little bit of politics. BASH: There you go. But this is -- this is something that you want to remember fondly, which is that you led the efforts to retake control of Congress for Democrats back in 2006. But you're not feeling so good about the prospects this year. I want our viewers to hear what you said at Stanford University.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EMANUEL: It took us a long time this get to low. It ain't going to happen in 2018. Take a chill pill, man. This is -- you got to be in this for the long haul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So, you don't think the Democrats are going to take the House back in to 2018?

EMANUEL: No actually what I disagree with is an approach that assumes (ph) -- it's only about one election.

We're down over the last eight years about 1,100 Democrats. You're not going to solve it in 2018. The Republicans didn't do what they did with just one election cycle and mind set. You have to have a long horizon. Obviously -- and work towards that electing people at the local level, the state Houses into Congress.

Now, your question is only because you're nationally is only about Congress. But the question is, what are we doing about state Houses? What are we doing through recruit to run for other types of offices at the local level?

And my point was and I stand by it is if you think this is going to happen in an entirely in just one cycle, you're going turn around years of eroding Democratic support at the local level, you're not having the right perspective. Do I think we're going to have a good year in 2018? Yes. Do I think everything is going to be solved in a single cycle? That's not how we got here and it's not going to be how we get out.

BASH: Hillary Clinton reemerged on Friday with a commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College, and the speech drew parallels between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon. If Hillary Clinton is up for another presidential run, would that be a good thing for your party?

EMANUEL: You know, look, you're asking something that we're not even first through the midterm election. She hasn't even declared for me to say that. That's like --

BASH: I know. But that's the question? Do you think she should?

EMANUEL: Well, it's not -- I love you. It's not a good question. OK. So the question is --

BASH: Why not?

EMANUEL: It's not a good question. We have a lot of people -- BASH: She sounded like she should be a candidate again. Would you

think that's a good idea? You're a party leader.

EMANUEL: She -- I happen to love Hillary and I think she's full of energy and I happen to think there's a lot of time between now and the presidential election, she has to decide whether that's in her heart.

We have a lot of time between now and the presidential election of 2020. Hillary has a lot to offer. The core question is not whether I think she would be a good candidate. It's whether she wants to run. Because at the end of day, the public is pretty smart. And if it's only going through the motion, they'll pick that up.

BASH: Thank you so much, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for joining me on this holiday weekend.

[09:35:02]

EMANUEL: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it.

A top Republican calls Trump a complete disaster. With friends like that, who needs enemies? We'll tell you who said it after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want to thank Jared Kushner who has been so involved in this and all of my guests. We have a great team. We have a team of all- stars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That was Donald Trump in February praising his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Kushner is now the focus, a focus I should say of the FBI's investigation for his contacts with Russia during the transition. Let's talk about that with our panel. Former Republican Presidential candidate, Rick Santorum; Jennifer Granholm, former Democratic governor of Michigan; Republican strategist, Kevin Madden; and former Democratic Ohio state senator, Nina Turner.

[09:40:00]

Senator Santorum, I'll start with you. Does this trouble you?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not at all, to be very honest with you.

BASH: It doesn't trouble you?

SANTORUM: Absolutely not. Look, Jared Kushner was involved in the campaign on policy. He was involved afterwards in the transition. And, to me, it's not inappropriate at all for him to be talking to people about -- at least the substance of what I've heard about, we don't know this to be true, was, hey, will the Russians back away from Iran? That's a good thing to be talking to Russia.

BASH: But with a back channel? I mean, to ask if he can have a communications channel directly to Moscow as a member of the presidential transition?

SANTORUM: Transition team. Yes, to me -- look, there are all sorts of back channels that are established in lots of different capacities, and he's clearly a very close confidant of the president. And for him to have a back channel, it doesn't bother me in the least.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So it's in a context, Rick -- he fails to disclose meetings with the Russians on his security forms. There are -- in the team -- 18 failures to disclose contacts with Russia. Jim Comey is fired for investigating Russia. Mike Pence is lied to about Russian contacts.

So the question really is why all of this secrecy? What is going on underneath all of this cover up?

SANTORUM: It's classic conflation.

GRANHOLM: No, no, it's -- well, you can't deny all of those facts have happened.

SANTORUM: The reality -- the reality is this is stuff that happened after the election.

GRANHOLM: This is a common sense question. Is it about the fact that Donald Trump has got financial interests that benefit his organizations and he doesn't want people to know that? Is it payback for the Russians having helped him get elected? Is it about covering up the Michael Steel (sic) dossier? Who knows, but this is why we need an independent commission at the level of Congress to be able to investigate this, in addition to the special prosecutor, to catch all of those contacts (ph).

SANTORUM: I am for the investigation. I think it's great.

GRANHOLM: Well, good.

SANTORUM: Nothing in this Jared Kushner story --

GRANHOLM: We agree on something.

SANTORUM: -- to me says that there is any connection between --

GRANHOLM: That he lied on his forms doesn't disturb you?

SANTORUM: -- Russian meddling in the election and this story.

BASH: Kevin, you are a communications specialist. The White House is preparing a war room. How would you lead that war room and lead this communications strategy if you were in the White House? KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think

oftentimes, you see White Houses, when they're in trouble like this, reflexively say let's put together a war room. Well, a war room is no good unless you have strategy. So the strategy has to be, first off, to conpartmentalize the investigation part of this issue and to have somebody whose daily job is to deal with just inquiries about the special counsel and his investigation.

Because the biggest problem for this, and where I am worried about it, is that investigations are worrisome. They become a huge distraction. The president and his team have to get back on offense and talk about the issue agenda that got them there in the White House to begin with. So I think that's where I would focus, is conpartmentalizing the inquiries about the special investigation, getting back on offense by talking about the agenda.

BASH: How's this playing out in Ohio?

NINA TURNER (D), FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: No one in Ohio is asking about Russia. I mean, we have to deal with this. We definitely have to deal with this. It's on the minds of the American people. But if you want to know what people in Ohio -- they want know about jobs, they want to know about their children. I was just in California where California folks, especially the national nurses, pushing for Healthy California, a single payer, Medicare for all kinds of things.

I talked to a Boomer, a Baby Boomer, who -- African-American baby Boomer who lives right here in D.C. Russia is not in his top five. He believes that both parties are failing. I talked to a Gen Xer, a white male, who's in a union. He wants third party.

We are losing -- the president should be concerned about this, all Americans should be concerned about this. But if I -- if we were to go to Flint, they wouldn't ask you about Russia and Jared Kushner; they want to know how they're going to get some clean water and why 8,000 people are about the to lose their homes.

We are preoccupied with this. It's not that this is not important, but everyday Americans are being left behind because it's Russia, Russia, Russia. Do we need all 535 members of the Congress to deal with Russia? Can some of them deal with some domestic issues?

BASH: Let me ask you about a former member of Congress, your former boss, the former Speaker, John Boehner. He's sort of been letting it rip lately, and this past week, he said the following. He praised the president for his work against Isis, but he says, "Everything else Trump has done has been a complete disaster. He's still learning how to be president."

Now, if we were in the green room, I would ask you the give your answer with the John Boehner imitation, because you're so good at it. But it's up to you. You do.

MADDEN: Well, this is the John Boehner I remember when we would brief him on Capitol Hill before he would do media briefings. He would oftentimes say something privately then we'd say, whoa, John, you can't say that out there. Because you have a responsibility to the conference, you have a responsibility to focus on issue agenda. This is John Boehner unfiltered, and I think a lot of what he's saying is a reflection, not a perfect reflection, but there are a lot of members of Congress that are sort of exasperated right now that there hasn't been more of a focus on the issue agenda and that what they're left to is litigate the day by day news that's coming out about the special counsel investigation.

BASH: And Senator, you might think that this -- the Jared story is not a big one, but it's hard to disagree with your former of Gang of Seven member, John Boehner.

[09:45:09]

That's going back in time, right?

SANTORUM: Twenty-six years.

BASH: About the notion that the agenda is off track.

SANTORUM: They're both right. The fact is that administration should be doing so well, and could be doing so well, if they just focused on getting their agenda passed. The last nine days hopefully have shown the president that if you stay on message, you stick to the script, you focus on policy, you drive home the messages you talked about during the campaign, and that people in America are excited about -- you can be a great president. If you tweet every day and complain about the media and complain about how you're being treated, you're going to be sidetracked and you're not get your deals done. That's the message.

TURNER: And cut $8 billion dollars from Medicaid.

GRANHOLM: Yes, I mean, the reason why John Boehner said, at the end of that, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, that he's not in that position anymore, not in D.C., anymore is because he sees what's coming down the pipe.

The people are reacting to the fact that the Republicans are going to slash 23 million people off of Medicare. In fact, 17 percent of independents have said that they would vote -- would be only 17 percent -- said that they would be in favor of a member of Congress who voted for that disastrous Republican health care bill. Because if you're 64 years old and you're making $26,000 a year, their bill would have that person pay $16,000 a year in premiums. Someone making $14 an hour. Now, you cannot say this is a good thing, Rick Santorum.

SANTORUM: I welcome this discussion. I mean, I understand what CBO says. CBO has gotten Obamacare wrong by -- not by a little bit, by a large margin. CBO always schedule -- always, always, predicts that government-mandated solutions work better than the market-based solutions. So, you can't, just can't rely on CBO on this. Make the case --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: CBO was appointed by a Republican. Come on.

SANTORUM: -- to the American public that government-run health care is not going to work, is not working, and we have to let the free market work (ph).

TURNER: But even Speaker Boehner said that, if it were him, that he would have advised the president to fix Obamacare. And not necessarily destroy it.

BASH: Well, in fairness, it's easy for him to say that now. He also led a House to repeal Obamacare like 727 times, when it couldn't pass.

TURNER: But this is real though. This is -- flesh and blood is behind these decisions.

MADDEN: That's right.

BASH: We just have a few seconds left. Tom McArthur, who was a member of the moderate Tuesday Group quit and he said he thinks the reality is that Republicans would rather just see this health care thing go away. You believe that?

MADDEN: I don't know. I think many folks have come to the conclusion that it is worse to not have delivered on a promise than it is to have to go out and litigate I think a new -- or at least promote a new advancement of the AHCA. And I think that's one of the big worries, is that you'll have such a depressed Republican base if you don't follow through on the promise to repeal Obamacare.

BASH: Such a great discussion this morning. Thank you. Happy Memorial Day weekend. Appreciate it.

And after the break --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans born in this century.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: On the 100th anniversary of President Kennedy's birth, who is picking up his torch? The next generation of Kennedys looking to make their way in Washington. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:52:55]

BASH: Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's birth. I'll be celebrating at a special ceremony at the Kennedy Center here in Washington.

While Camelot lives on their forever, there's a new crop of Kennedys looking to join the family business. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY: The energy, the faith, the devotion.

BASH (voice-over): It's one of John F. Kennedy's most enduring legacies, his call for Americans to serve.

JOHN F. KENNEDY: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

BASH: It inspired millions to join the peace corps, enlist and run for office, including his own children and grandchildren. His daughter, Caroline, home after serving as President Obama's ambassador to Japan hasn't ruled out following her father's footsteps to the Senate and maybe even the White House.

CAROLINE KENNEDY SCHLOSSBERG, JOHN F. KENNEDY'S DAUGHTER: The fact that people would come up to me every day and say, you know, I got involved in my community because of your father's inaugurate speech. They were so inspired by President Kennedy's vision of service and of American leadership that I think that really kept him alive.

BASH: JFK's great nephew, Joseph Kennedy III is already serving in Congress, where he's taking up health care, the signature cause of his great uncle Senator Ted Kennedy.

REP. JOSEPH KENNEDY III (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I was struck last night by a comment that I heard made by Speaker Ryan, where he called the repeal bill -- quote -- "An act of mercy." With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different scripture. The one that I read called us on to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless and to comfort the sick.

BASH: And on the campaign trail now is Chris Kennedy, John F. Kennedy's brother Bobby's son. He launched his campaign for Illinois governor in February by invoking his family's legacy.

CHRIS KENNEDY, ROBERT F. KENNEDY'S SON: They've embrace the notion that we are all in this together. That our country is the land of opportunity. That's the country I want for my kids.

BASH: And who knows? Even younger Kennedys may be eyeing public office, too. JFK's granddaughter, Rose, who bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother, Jackie, appeared in a video this week commemorating the 100th anniversary of her grandfather's birth.

[09:55:09]

ROSE KENNEDY SCHLOSSBERG, JOHN F. KENNEDY'S GRANDDAUGHTER: I'm inspired by grandfather's sense of equality, his courage in naming the injustices in American society.

JOHN F. KENNEDY: It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color.

ROSE SCHLOSSBERG: We're still faced with tremendous inequality and injustice.

BASH: And all eyes on Jack Kennedy's grandson, also named Jack, who is studying the former president's legacy carefully.

JACK KENNEDY SCHLOSSBERG, JOHN F. KENNEDY'S GRANDSON: My favorite speech of his is his speech that gave at Rice University explaining to America why we should go to the moon.

JOHN F. KENNEDY: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

JACK KENNEDY SCHLOSSBERG: And in that speech, he said that great challenges are actually great opportunities. I think it's important to remember that those are opportunities and that we can rise to the occasion if we choose good leadership.

BASH: Will he run?

JACK KENNEDY SCHLOSSBERG: I'm inspired by my family's legacy of public service. It's something that is -- I'm very proud of. But I'm still trying to make my own way to figure things out and -- stay tuned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: We will.

Thanks so much for watching. I hope you and your loved ones have a meaningful Memorial Day. I'm Dana Bash in Washington.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next.