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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With California Congresswoman Jackie Speier; Tiger Woods Arrest Details; North Korean Nuclear Fears; Two Trump Advisers Refusing to Comply With Russia Investigation; White House Communications Director Resigns; Germany & Italy: E.U. Must Take Future Into Owns Hands. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired May 30, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Two top Trump advisers refusing to comply with the Russia investigation.
THE LEAD starts right now. CNN exclusive reporting that the Russian, sources say, were caught on intercepts bragging about possessing something damaging to Donald Trump and his campaign. Was this just boasting? Was it disinformation? Or was it legit?
Firing back. For the first time, the U.S. fires a missile capable of knocking down potentially a North Korean nuke. Was the test a success?
Plus, asleep at the wheel -- new details about that disoriented- looking Tiger Woods during his DUI arrest. What does the Breathalyzer have to say?
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
The Russia investigation by the FBI and by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees is proceeding at full speed, and so is apparently the refusal to cooperate for many key figures closest to President Trump.
Today is the deadline for fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to comply with subpoenas issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And just a couple hours ago, we learned that Trump corporate attorney Michael Cohen, known as the president's political pit bull, will not corporate with the request by Congress to provide information and testify.
Now, this is all happening as presidential son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner comes under increased scrutiny for his meetings with Russians and his alleged attempts to set up secret back- channel communications with Russian leaders.
This swirl of information presumably prompted the president to alert his supporters to believe none of it, tweeting -- quote -- "It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies, made up by the fake news media. Whenever you see the word sources say in the fake news media, and they don't mention names, it is very possible that those sources don't exist, but are made up by fake news writers. Fake news is the enemy."
The goal here, as it has been for months now, is to discredit any legitimate news reports based on firsthand accounts from within President Trump's own White House and his own administration, as I know firsthand since I have spoken with people in his administration who have talked to me only agreeing to do so if they were not named.
Sometimes, they did so to defend President Trump. Sometimes, they did so because they were concerned about President Trump's behavior, but they were always 100 percent real people, as are the background briefings that the White House repeatedly sets up in which unnamed presidential advisers provide information and often fawning prose to reporters.
Now, President Trump is not the first president to hate leaks. The Obama White House not only criticized media outlets for using anonymous sourcing. They went after whistle-blowers and leakers using the Espionage Act more than every single previous president combined. The Obama administration threatened to jail reporters for not sharing their names of their sources.
No, Mr. Trump's not the first one to express frustration about this, but this is the same president who just this morning retweeted this story from a White House-approved channel, FOX, a story that reads -- quote -- "A December meeting between Jared Kushner and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower focused on Syria, a source familiar with the matter told FOX News Monday," a single anonymous source in a story the president sent out to his 30 million followers.
The president, I think it's fair to say, is not only inconsistent about the use of anonymous sources; he's not a particularly good judge of them.
As the unofficial head of the birther movement, which sought to argue falsely and without any evidence that Barack Obama, the first African- American president, was born in Africa, citizen Trump provided this investigative journalism -- quote -- "An extremely credible source has called my office and told me that Barack Obama's birth certificate is a fraud."
In President Trump's world, that lie is true, and the purveyor of that lie is extremely credible.
And that's really all that needs to be said on this subject. When it comes to President Trump criticizing what is true and what is false, consider the source.
CNN correspondent Jessica Schneider joins me now with the latest on the Russia investigation.
And, Jessica, sources are telling CNN about intercepts in which, according to sources, Russian officials talked about the Trump campaign during the election. What did they allegedly say?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in those intercepts, Jake, Russian officials, they claim to have -- quote -- "derogatory information" about then candidate Donald Trump and some of his associates. That's according to two former intelligence officials, as well as a congressional source.
Now, these conversations with picked up in the midst of the 2016 election. And a source tells CNN that the supposed derogatory details were financial in nature. Now, the conversations were picked up by U.S. intelligence, and they showed that the Russians believe they -- quote -- "had the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information."
But the sources do warn that the Russian claims could have been exaggerated or even made up as part of that disinformation campaign that they carried out throughout the entire election.
Now, all this as the White House fends off questions about reports that Jared Kushner pursued a secret communication channel with Russian officials. The FBI, we know, is now scrutinizing the meeting between Kushner and the Russians. That's according to a U.S. official.
Now, Kushner met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower in early December and then in mid-December Kislyak told Kushner to meet with the chairman of the U.S.-sanctioned VEB Bank, Sergey Gorkov, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Now sources defending Kushner say that his meetings with Ambassador Kislyak were actually to discuss military strategy in Syria and the talks did involve former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Today, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, he responded with this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You're asking if he approves of an action that is not a confirmed action.
That being said, I think Secretary Kelly and General McMaster have both discussed that in general terms back channels are an appropriate part of diplomacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, Donald trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen is refusing to cooperate with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, which have called on him to and over information and to appear.
Cohen called the request -- quote -- "poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered," and then said it was irresponsible that the request itself was even leaked to the press by the committee.
Cohen is the second Trump associate to deny requests from congressional investigators. Michael Flynn, of course, refused to comply with a Senate subpoena and House request last week, and that was through his lawyer.
TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
With a second person close to President Trump refusing to cooperate with investigations into whatever happened with Russia, what is the next move? We will talk to a member of the House Intelligence Committee next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back.
The probes into any ties between President Trump's associates and Russian officials continues to expand.
For more, I want to talk with Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She's a Democrat from California.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining with us.
Let me start with the fact that President Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen said he was asked, but he declined to provide information to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees investigating any possible Russia ties.
He told CNN that the Intelligence Committee's request was a -- quote -- "fishing expedition." And he added -- quote -- "I declined the invitation to participate, as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered."
What's your response, and what can you tell us about what your committee wants to ask him?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think that, first of all, his request -- the request has been made. He has declined it.
So, in all likelihood, there will be subpoenas issued, which he will then be compelled to respond to. And this is not a fishing expedition. This is furthering our review on whether or not associates of the Trump campaign were in coordination and/or collusion with the Russians who were attempting to turn the election.
TAPPER: Do you have any information that suggests Michael Cohen was talking to any Russian officials during the campaign?
SPEIER: I'm not at liberty to say, but we certainly have been -- it's been reported that he has had meetings with those who were trying to broker a deal on Ukraine and the lifting of sanctions.
TAPPER: A source tells CNN that Jared Kushner wanted to set up some sort of secure line between the presidential transition and the Kremlin for direct communications.
Administration officials say basically having two countries communicate is a good thing. What are your thoughts?
SPEIER: Well, first of all, he was not a person empowered to do so as part of the administration. This was something he was trying to set up in December
And the fact that he, it appears, wanted to even have the setup in the Russian Embassy shows a great deal of naivete, and as if something is being hidden. So I'm very troubled by that particular conversation and what was being suggested.
TAPPER: Do you think it's premature for the Democratic National Committee to be calling for President Trump to fire -- to fire Jared Kushner, given the fact that he hasn't even given his side of the story yet to your committee, the Senate, or to the FBI, as far as we know?
SPEIER: I think that certainly he should be given the opportunity to tell his side of the story.
I think the question that has to be asked is whether or not he should continue to have his security clearance during this time of probing.
TAPPER: The FBI is scrutinizing why specifically Kushner met with a Russian banker who has ties to Vladimir Putin. This happened during the presidential transition.
The bank said in March that the meeting was about financial business. The White House says that Kushner met with Russian officials in lieu of the State Department on official government business.
The White House press secretary today didn't really do anything to clarify. Do you have any information about why this meeting took place?
SPEIER: Well, why would a meeting take place with a banker from Russia that has had sanctions imposed on him? Why aren't you meeting with bankers from other European countries?
The problem with all of this is that all roads lead to Russia. And the question we have to keep asking ourselves, why? Why is this fascination or this relationship with Russia so tight in the Trump administration?
Why is it President Trump has never said a negative word about President Putin , but is lashing out at our closest allies in Europe at the G7 and afterwards?
TAPPER: CNN's reporting that sources say that intercepted conversations during the campaign show Russians discussing having potentially derogatory information about then candidate Trump and aides of his, perhaps derogatory information that's financial in nature.
[16:15:09] It's not clear whether the information was real or they were boasting or whether it was disinformation, but on these intercepts the Russian officials believed they could use the information to influence president Trump and then citizen Trump. Do you know anything about this story?
SPEIER: Well, all I know is that the Putin playbook has been around for a long time, and it's all about getting kompromat. It's all about getting stuff on individuals to be able to use something against them.
And it wouldn't surprise me if they had derogatory information on the president. They were certainly trying to go drum up derogatory information on Hillary Clinton and certainly through the DNC did a major dump of e-mails and texts about her campaign in an effort to impact the election.
TAPPER: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, on the House Intelligence Committee -- thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.
SPEIER: Thank you.
TAPPER: The White House's top messaging man is leaving after just three months on the job. Is a bigger staff shake-up on the horizon?
Then, the unusual circumstances that led to the arrest of Tiger Woods. What he told police after they found him sleeping behind the wheel.
[16:20:35] TAPPER: Welcome back.
Continuing with politics and the chaotic normal back at the White House. Now the man in charge of White House messaging says he's out of here. Mike Dubke served as communications director for fewer than three months before calling it quits. He was the third person named to that role since President Trump was elected.
It is common practice in Washington when the policy and leadership are being questioned to blame the communications staffers.
CNN's Sara Murray joins me now from the White House.
Sara, the main message that we're hearing there off the record, on background, is one of frustration.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is certainly true, but if you look at the on-the-record message today from Sean Spicer, he says the president's only frustration is with the news media, that the president is pleased with his staff, that the agenda is moving full speed ahead. But, of course, sources are telling us things are not quite so rosy in the West Wing and now one top staffer is heading for the exit. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
MURRAY (voice-over): As the Trump administration struggles to find its footing amid a cloud of controversy, a senior official is stepping aside.
Communications director Mike Dubke submitted his resignation May 18th, though it's unclear when he'll serve his last day in the White House. His upcoming departure comes as speculation about a broader staff shake-up reaches a fever pitch.
DAVID BOSSIE, FORMER TRUMP DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Thanks for having me back.
MURRAY: Former Trump campaign hands like David Bossie are playing coy about whether they may soon be headed to the West Wing.
BOSSIE: I'm not going to say there's something sitting on the table for me to pick. It's an ongoing conversation.
MURRAY: As Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, faces scrutiny in the FBI's Russia probe, sources tell CNN he isn't going anywhere, and that for now, Sean Spicer's job is also safe. The press secretary re-emerged in front of the camera for the daily briefing today, his first since mid-May and insisted the president's priorities are on track.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's legislative agenda is in full swing.
MURRAY: But in the chaotic West Wing, crisis management is putting the brakes on the agenda. Trump venting on Twitter Tuesday said the U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes immediately and get health care and tax cuts approved fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt, but both of those issues are slated to move through a process that only requires 51 votes. The biggest problem has been getting Republicans on the same page.
Meanwhile, the president isn't making key decisions that lie within his control. He hasn't named a new FBI director, though he's interviewing two candidates today. He hasn't made a decision about whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan, and he hasn't announced whether the U.S. will remain in the Paris climate accord.
Fresh on the heels of a trip to NATO and the G7 where Trump privately criticized German officials, Trump took his scolding public Tuesday, tweeting: We have a massive trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay far less than they should on NATO and military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.
This as U.S. allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel are suggesting America is no longer the world leader it once was and it's time for Europe to step up.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The times when we could completely rely on others are to an extent over. I've experienced this in the last few days and that's why we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.
MURRAY: Now, despite these not only public but also private frustrations between the president and German officials, today, Sean Spicer said the relationship between President Trump and Angela Merkel was fairly unbelievable -- Jake.
TAPPER: OK. Sara Murray, thank you so much.
Preventing the North Korea nuclear nightmare, a look at the critical missile test the Pentagon conducted just minutes ago. Was it successful?
Stay with us.
[16:28:26] TAPPER: We're back with our world lead now.
As we were just discussing, when it comes to our allies in Europe, it's not just Germany criticizing U.S. leadership. Now, Italy is joining in the fun as well, saying that the European Union must take its future into its own hands.
Meanwhile, President Trump I think it's fair to say is contributing to the tension to a degree, tweeting, quote: We have a massive trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay far less than they should on NATO and military. Very bad for U.S. This will change, unquote.
Let's bring in CNN's Frederik Pleitgen.
Fred, much of this tension began last week when President Trump blasted traditional U.S. allies over their NATO obligations, which is a totally legitimate issue, but the needling has continued. How is this being felt in Europe?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there's a lot of anger among European allies, especially the Germans.
You know, I've covered Angela Merkel, Jake, since the year 2000 and she really doesn't really come out as forcefully as she has saying Europe needs to take its destiny into its own hands. It certainly was a wake-up call, the last week with President Trump there at the NATO Summit and then also at the G7 in Italy when he made some of those remarks about Germany and trade and also about the NATO allies.
One of the things that really angered a lot of European leaders, especially the Italians, by the way, was also the things regarding the Paris climate accord. One of the things that the Italian prime minister referenced was, look, we simply don't see eye to eye with the U.S. on the environment at this point in time and that's why this situation is so difficult. Angela Merkel saying essentially there's a 6-1 situation within the G7 on that topic right now. So, there is a lot of frustration in Europe. There's also some who
see it more likely. There were some leaders of the Nordic country who took a picture likening themselves to that orb picture that you had with President Trump and the Saudi king.