Return to Transcripts main page


Source Close to Trump: He's Emotionally Withdrawn; Scuffle Breaks Out on Dallas House Floor; Sources: Russians Potentially Had "Derogatory" Info on Trump Associates During Campaign; Trump Keeps Up Criticism of Germany Amid Tensions; Dallas GOP Lawmaker Calls ICE on Protesters, Scuffle Erupts. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 30, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:17] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Have you wondered recently what is going on in the president's mind these days? We have new reporting on just that. Is the growing scrutiny of the Russia probe taking a personal toll?

With me now, Gloria Borger, CNN's chief political analyst; and Patrick Healey, a CNN political analyst and deputy culture editor for "The New York Times."

Gloria, look no further than his Twitter feed today. The president does not seem like his foreign trip improved his mood. You have some fascinating, new reporting on his mind-set.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITIAL ANALYST: Thanks, Kate. You know, before he left for the trip, I was told by a source close to him that he was in a pretty glum mood. That was before the trip. He came back and he felt that it was a successful trip, but he comes back to this Russia investigation going at mock speed, now with his son-in-law now part of a counterintelligence investigation. And I was told by more than one friend of his that he not only is glum, but he seems to be withdrawing, and that that's not a really good place for Donald Trump to be, that he has less and less faith in people who work for him, and his outside friends are more and more critical, I think, of the staff inside the White House. This could be expected. And one of them said to me, you know, these guys don't play chess, they play checkers.

BOLDUAN: Tell me what that means. I was fascinated by that reporting, because I'm a very bad chess player, I will admit.

BORGER: I think it means that they're not thinking in 3d. They're not thinking about the moves after the next move as much as they should, as in the firing of Comey. I think there are people the president talks to now who told him that that was a bad idea, that if he had done it on day one, that might have been a good idea, but you needed to play this out and not assume that the Democrats would all jump up and down for glee just because they don't like Comey, which is, of course, what occurred. Nobody jumped up and down for glee.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. So, Patrick, we also have at the same time some reporting about Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, where their heads are at this moment in light of this expanding probe into the Russian meddling. They are, according to the reports, they're unfazed by this new scrutiny, they're keeping their heads down, and Jared is not planning on giving up any of his very broad portfolio at the White House. But how is this not a distraction on their every day?

PATRICK HEALEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very hard, Kate, but this is sort of a classic Washington, you know, insider strategy, which is sort of hunker down and assume that in, you know, today's news cycle or the next news cycle or by Thursday, something else is going to come up, someone else is going to be in the spotlight, in the crosshairs, and that, from their point of view, the media will move on, that voters just hear a lot of noise and don't see anything specific. A lot of people don't even really know who Jared Kushner is, or they think Ivanka is this very nice person from her speech at the Republican convention over the summer. They're not making these levels of judgment.

You know, but going back to Gloria's point in her great reporting on this, it's about the family right now, you know, it's about -- President Trump very much is still the head of this family, someone who is going to be in a very tough position holding Jared Kushner accountable. He's his son-in-law. He can't easily be fired or benched or given sort of the third degree. And Donald Trump is very much used to sort of calling the shots and getting his way and running his family and his business in a very kind of top-down way with no competing power centers. If he doesn't like the legal advice that he's getting, he sometimes didn't pay the lawyers. You know, he was used to getting his way. And now he's finding those things don't work when you are president of the United States. And glum is the word for it.

[11:36:16] BOLDUAN: And, Gloria, the search for, as we mentioned, as you talked about, fired FBI Director James Comey -- the search still continues for the next FBI director, and you're hearing some fascinating stuff about Chris Christie and where he landed or is possibly landing in this.

BORGER: Well, the president did not offer Chris Christie the job. I think they are still friends, and I was told by one source that in a conversation, the president sort of politely in an offhand way made what I would call a non-offer, which is, you don't really want this, right? And of course, Christie, I'm told by a source that, you know, he said of course I don't, it would be a hassle for you, it would be a hassle for me, now let's move on.

And I think another interesting point here is that, really, there was no thinking, or the president thought that maybe Joe Lieberman would be well received by Democrats, and of course --

BOLDUAN: He thought wrong.

BORGER: -- that wasn't the case. Joe Lieberman was not well received by Democrats. And so they got themselves into another problem. So they're on the precipice of offering this to Lieberman, and then right before the trip, they had to pull it back. And now they have to pull something else out of their hat to get someone to run the FBI. BOLDUAN: So, with Jared now so much more in the spotlight, Patrick,

do you think there's any pressure for him to speak out? I mean, he is -- I would call him the most visible, yet most silent figure in this White House.

HEALEY: Right. No, you're exactly right, Kate. And I think there is going to be some pressure, but the idea of him coming up and taking the White House, you know, briefing room podium and answering questions the way that, you know, at times Hillary Clinton when she was first lady and she held press conferences to sort of get at her role as an adviser to the president, you know, President Bill Clinton. You know, family members who will put themselves kind of forward and take those questions. It seems very unlikely, but the pressuring's going to grow. And part of that, Kate, of course is Democrats smell blood in the water. They know that Jared Kushner occupies this kind of unusual space in Trump world, where, again, President Trump can't just sort of throw him overboard. So, the extent to which they can cause heartburn for the president, a lot of it's going to be around Jared.

BOLDUAN: Whereas, you may not want to hold a press conference, I do know that someone named Gloria Borger did a great interview with his wife, Ivanka.

You could also sit down with Gloria. It'd be great to see you.


Just an idea, just throwing it out there.

Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.

BORGER: Thanks.

HEALEY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, one of America's closest allies, Germany, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is doubling down on her criticism and tough talk towards the United States. And now President Trump is seeming to escalate their, kind of, what's becoming a war of words here. Details on that ahead.

Plus, what sparked these lawmakers in Texas to start pretty much fighting on the House floor? One even threatened, they say, to put a bullet in the head of a colleague. Seriously? That's coming up.


[11:43:16] BOLDUAN: This just in to CNN. Ariana Grande, whose concert was targeted by a terrorist in Manchester, England, just announced that she'll be returning to the city for a benefit concert this Sunday. A source telling CNN that Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Coldplay will also be taking the stage with her to honor the victims. We'll have more on that as we get it.

Let's return to our lead story of the day. Former congressional officials and a source telling CNN Russian officials discussed having potentially derogatory information about Donald Trump and some of his top aides during the campaign. So, did they have damaging information or was this just part of a larger disinformation campaign in 2016?

With me now, Republican consultant, Barry Bennett, who also worked with the Trump campaign; CNN political contributor and former Democratic mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, is here; and CNN political commentator and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Amanda Carpenter.

Hi, friends! Great to see you all.

So, Barry, on this derogatory information, it could have been financial related, it could have been otherwise. Also, the new spotlight on Jared Kushner. You see this reporting, and think what, Barry?

BARRY BENNETT, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT & FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Well, one, I think that the campaign was so small, it could barely collude with itself to begin with, so there's nothing "there" there. But these leaks from intelligence officials, they should alarm everybody. I mean, if the CIA could find a man in a cave halfway around the world in the dark, but they can't seem to find who's calling the "Washington Post," that's a little alarming. And you know, I think the investigators -- Bob Mueller's got subpoena power, he can do whatever he wants, and he should get to the bottom of all this, but these leaks are getting a little scary.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, I have a feeling you see it a little differently.

[11:45:02] MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah. Barry, it was cute, now it's the stupidity defense that the campaign was now incompetent and couldn't collude with itself.

BENNETT: That's not exactly what I said.

NUTTER: But nowhere near true. It is what you said.


BENNETT: I don't think I used those words, Mayor, once again.

NUTTER: Let me get at least five seconds in.

BENNETT: Go ahead and slander, then we'll go on.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, go ahead, please.

NUTTER: So, now, now we have information, because the Russians, of course, we surveil them. They probably surveil us as well. But nonetheless, this information is critical. I understand folks want to deflect and talk about leakers. We wouldn't know about Michael Flynn. He'd probably still be national security director but for some damaging information coming out, I think that was from the "Washington Post." so, all of this is really about the truth, starting at the top. Donald Trump needs to tell the truth. Jared Kushner needs to tell the truth. Manafort, Flynn, Carter Page, the whole group, everyone needs to come up with the true story about all of this stuff, and then we can stop the speculation.

BOLDUAN: And that is what -- Bob Mueller has the biggest job in Washington and beyond right now, because it's all going to land on this.

Barry, Corey Lewandowsky has been seen at the White House. Rumors are he's maybe put in charge of a war room at sorts that they're working on in response to all of this. Post-election, you started a consulting firm with Corey. Is he the right man to go in there and right this ship?

BENNETT: Well, I don't think you'd find anybody more loyal to the president than Corey. Corey's a good friend. And I know that he is immensely loyal to the president. And the president trusts him. And so, I think that would be good for the president.

BOLDUAN: Do you think he doesn't have that loyalty and trust around him now?

BENNETT: Well, I don't know that the president trusts everybody around him now, which is kind of alarming to me. So, I think, you know, those people that he doesn't trust, he needs to replace with people that he does because this is a recipe for disaster.

BOLDUAN: Amanda, the president had something to say about the Kushner back-channel ask this morning, retweeting a FOX News report that said that Kushner didn't suggest that Russian communications channel in a meeting. Source says. Now, this is also the very same president, Amanda, you'll remember, that has said this in the past in tweets -- and we'll put them up on the stage: "Whenever you see the word 'sources say' in the fake news media and they don't mention names, it is very possible that these sources don't exist, but they are made up by fake news writers."

Your take on this? When do we believe the sources and when do we not, I say facetiously?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here's the thing, Donald Trump needs more than a blunt item on to support his case, especially when it comes to Jared Kushner. Here's what's going on right now. The FBI, we're not having a big investigation about collusion. There are investigations going on about Russian influence over the elections. And the question is, were Trump associates witting or unwitting essentially in a vulnerable position for Russians to take advantage of? That's the question we need to look at. In all of these reports, sources named, sources unnamed, get back to a question of, A, Russians, B, secret meetings and, C, money. Those are the three things, Russians, secret meetings, and the money that was exchanged that was previously undisclosed, whether it's speaking fees, whether it's talking with bankers. That's what is swirling around right now, and the Trump administration has offered no reasonable explanation other than this is a witch hunt, don't ask questions. They're going to have to do a lot better than that. They have no story. They have no narrative to explain why they had so many contacts with the Russians that they did not disclose to the public that to date has now resulted in the firing of three people investigating the situation and the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Those are really big deals.

BOLDUAN: Barry, on the most basic level, though, the president very clearly in just a couple days, he wants to have it both ways -- don't trust sources, but trust my sources. I mean, that's not -- that's not -- that doesn't work, friend.

BENNETT: No, it doesn't, you know? But the problem is that the media is guilty of this just like both political parties are. We all believe the source that tends to lend to our narrative. I don't trust any of the sources.


BENNETT: If you want to go on camera and say something, that's fine, but all of these sources from the intelligence community? I've never seen anything like it.

NUTTER: Then have the president say something.


NUTTER: He can clear all of this up if he would stop tweeting and --


BENNETT: That's why -- let's go get the details. Let's get the details. But there is nothing there.

BOLDUAN: Well, how can you say --

NUTTER: You keep thinking that.

-- there's nothing there when people have resigned, when Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself?


BENNETT: Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself because the media made a big deal of the ambassador of Russia -


BOLDUAN: -- there's a criminal statute --


BOLDUAN: Hold on. Hold on.


[11:50:06] BOLDUAN: Everyone is a little bit right and a little bit talking over each other.

There is no evidence at this very moment.

I love you all.

There's no evidence right now of collusion. There is no hard evidence. And that is of course what Republicans and people loyal to the president did hang their hat on. But as what they're pointing out, folks that do not trust the president, they see this is not a party that is acting like they are innocent and that is what I hear over and over again. Why does the president not just come out and say Jared Kushner didn't do this, I didn't instruct him to do this, rather than retweet a source from FOX News?

I'm going to change directions. Follow me now, because this is also important news. The president is all about the tweets today apparently. Tweeting again this morning more criticism of Germany. The tweet that he had talked about a massive trade deficit with Germany saying it's very bad for the United States and saying this will change.

We've heard this before from the president, but this all comes in kind of a new con tech. You've got the German chancellor speaking out and reiterating her tough language against the United States basically saying the U.S. can't be trusted anymore.

Is this a headline that you would want as an American coming on the heels of this first foreign trip?

NUTTER: No. It's pretty disgraceful. And I have to commend the chancellor for speaking her mind. Remember, it appears Donald Trump is intimidated by strong powerful women. He refused to shake her hand on the White House visit.


NUTTER: She spoke her mind and now he's all flipped out today on Twitter. He did not demonstrate leadership in many instances on this nine-day trip. He thought he was getting away from controversy in the United States. It only increased.

And the chancellor is putting it out there to Europe as to what the current state of condition is as it relates to the United States of America. It's embarrassing, as an American, that the president goes abroad and leaves with many, many international leaders wondering what in the world is going on in the United States and what's with this guy?

BOLDUAN: Barry, final word.

BENNETT: I don't think too many leaders in Europe didn't know where the president was. They might not have liked it. And I hardly think it's embarrassing, when countries like Germany, who benefit greatly from our participation in NATO and our bases there, and they don't even cough up their 2 percent to NATO. The free ride is over.

NUTTER: That's what this is about. BOLDUAN: Also important to note, when we talk about politics, the chancellor's also in the middle of a political campaign as well. Just add that all into the mix.

Great to see you all. Thank you.

Coming up, scuffle at the statehouse. Lawmakers in Texas trading assault accusations after this scene broke out on the statehouse floor. Details, if you want them, coming up next.


[11:57:04] BOLDUAN: Chaos erupts between lawmakers in Texas after one Republican says he called immigration agents on protesters. The protesters were inside the state capital to speak out against a new law that bans sanctuary cities and punishes local governments who don't comply with immigration and detention requests. That is when one lawmaker said made a call to get rid of them.

Joining me now from Dallas, CNN correspondent, Ed Lavandera.

That does not look like a typical day in the statehouse. What happened, Ede?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quite an ending to the legislative session here in Texas. This all started, as you mentioned, there had been a group of protesters who were in the gallery of the Texas House protesting the signing of Senate bill 4, which is the anti-sanctuary city bill that was signed by governor of Texas several weeks ago. Those protests still going on. At that point, that is when several Democratic lawmakers say that Republican Representative Matt Rinaldi came over to the group of Democratic Hispanic lawmakers and said "'F' them," referring to the protesters, and that he had called ICE to have them deported. That didn't go over well with the Democratic lawmakers. That's when you see the shoving and pushing and "F" bombs flying rather thick through that argument. You hear from one of the representatives, Poncho Nevarez, who said that he was actually threatened to be shot by Rinaldi in the course of that conversation.

Listen to him here.


STATE REP. PONCHO NEVAREZ, (D), TEXAS: A little scuffle broke out and I got in there. When I realized what it was about and what it was doing and saying, I got in his face and I put my hands on the guy. I asked him, you know, these are things that shouldn't happen on the House floor. We shouldn't be doing that. So in that and another exchange, I said we need to take this outside because it shouldn't get resolved here in front of all these people. I walked away from the guy and I didn't hear him, but some of my colleagues heard him say he was going to put a bullet in my brain.


LAVANDERA: Matt Rinaldi put out a statement after that, that he had been told by Poncho Nevarez that he would, quote, "Get me on my way to the car and he said those words that he would shoot him in self- defense." To that, Poncho Nevarez and several others have called Rinaldi's statement a lie.

All of this incredibly dramatic, Kate. As you might have heard, there's an old joke that's been around the Texas legislator from some time. The legislature meets 144 days every two years. The joke has been perhaps these lawmakers should meet two days every 140 years. I guess the last day of session proving that joke might be a good idea.

BOLDUAN: Look, in some strange way, democracy in action. Protesters speaking out and them trading strange words and almost fists and punches on the statehouse floor. These are elected officials. That's the amazing thing. Maybe it's good. They all need a little summer break.

Great to see you, Ed.


LAVANDERA: I might be back in a couple weeks. The governor of Texas is considering a special session so they might all be together in the same room. A little kumbaya moment in a couple of weeks.

BOLDUAN: Stand by for more. Kumbaya it is.

Great to see you all. Thanks so much for joining us at this hour.

"Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.