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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
W.H. Leaves Door Open To Blocking Comey Testimony; W.H. Won't Say If Trump Thinks Climate Change Is A Hoax; Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 2, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Next, breaking news. The White House leaving the door open to blocking James Comey's testimony. This, as we're learning more about what Comey will say. Plus Donald Trump's endless tweets about Russia. Are they a treasure trove for special counsel Robert Mueller? And does Donald Trump still think climate change is a hoax? Sean Spicer doesn't seem know. Let's go OutFront. Good evening. I'm Kate Baldwin in for Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, we are following breaking news. The White House is leaving open the possibility of the president invoking executive privilege to block fired FBI Director James Comey from testifying.
Comey's testimony next week before the Senate Intelligence Committee is clearly shaping up to be the most highly anticipated hearing before congress in decades. His account could blow the entire Russia investigation wide open. Of course, that's if President Trump decides -- doesn't try to stop Comey first. Here's what White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the White House going to invoke executive privilege to prevent James Comey from testifying with intelligence panel next week?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That committee hearing was just noticed and I think obviously it's got to be reviewed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Reviewed. Clearly leaving their options open at the moment. Invoking executive privilege in this case seems like it would be a very rare move. Only invoked one other time by President Richard Nixon. This as -- CNN has learned what Comey may say about his controversial meetings with the president about the Russia investigation. A source tell CNN Comey was "disturbed by the meetings." We begin with our breaking news coverage with Michelle Kosinski. Michelle, exerting executive privilege would be a very big deal.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right. And this is not the White House saying we welcome Comey's testimony, have at it. It's them saying executive privilege is something that will be looked at. So, here we are now days away from the world expecting to hear from the fired FBI Director. What he has to say about the conversations he had with President Trump but now we're also waiting to hear whether the president can or will try to stop him from talking. The White House today not ruling out that President Trump could invoke executive privilege and try to stop James Comey, the FBI Director he fired from telling his side of the story.
KELLYANNE CONWWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The president will make that decision.
KOSINSKI: Comey now scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday morning is expected to talk about one- on-one conversations he had with President Trump while Comey's office was investigating Trump associates contacts with Russia. Conversations that Comey kept notes on and in which sources tell CNN, Trump asked him for his loyalty and may have tried to persuade him to drop the investigation against fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. All of which the White House has denied. But a claim of executive privilege could be undermined by the president's own words.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said if it's possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation? He said you are not under investigation.
KOSINSKI: Those public comments could be enough to tank any claim that the content of the talks should be kept private. Today a source close to Comey tells CNN he was disturbed by what the president said to him and felt Trump didn't understand it was inappropriate. Put all together with Trump's later firing of Comey many believe it could amount to obstruction of justice.
TRUMP: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
KOSINSKI: Questions remain too over why Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner secretly met with a Russian banker and former spy at an undisclosed location allegedly to try to establish a secret channel of communication with the kremlin before the inauguration. The bank maintains Sergei Gorkov, was meeting with Kushner as a businessman, the White House says it was part of Kushner's work under Trump transition. It has since emerge that Kushner also had multiple undisclosed contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The White House initially said one meeting was just a courtesy visit but sources now explain they were discussing possible collaboration between the U.S. and Russia. In Syria, former senior state department official Dan Fried tell CNN he and former colleagues were worried when the Trump administration post inauguration started working on a plan to potentially lift sanctions against Russia that were imposed for taking over Crimea as well as hacking in the U.S. election which disturbed him enough to reach out to lawmakers to try to stop it.
DANIEL FRIED, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EUROPE: Lifting sanctions without the Russians doing anything as a free gift struck me, strikes me now as a bad, bad idea. My colleagues were concerned about this. And so was I at the time.
KOSINSKI: And on sanctions, the White House official did tell Yahoo News which originally reported on some of this that at the time, the administration was looking at all sanctions, including against Russia. And if there was going to be any lifting in Russia would have had to take significant action and direction that the U.S. would want and that never happened. On executive privilege, a senate source tonight tells CNN that they don't think it would work. First of all, you have a former official. He wants to talk.
The president has already spoken publicly at least about part of these conversations and even if the White House wanted to pursue this in federal court, this source doesn't think it would be successful. Erin?
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Michelle. I really appreciate it. So, Athena Jones is OutFront at the White House for us now. Athena, so, Press Secretary Sean Spicer he was asked repeatedly today about this very question, whether the president will try and block Comey from testifying where does the White House stand right now on this?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. That's right. Sean Spicer was asked this question and he didn't really have much of an answer. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: That committee hearing was just noticed and I think obviously it's got to be reviewed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is that -- that's not a no?
SPICER: No. I'm just saying I don't -- literally -- my understanding is the date for that hearing was just set. I have not spoken to counsel yet. I don't know what that -- what they're going to -- how they're going to respond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So we're standing by for a decision on that. And of course, there are two big questions that go with it. One is does the White House want to run the risk of looking like they're trying to hide something about these conversations. The other big question, of course, is what Michelle touched on which is, will the president -- would the president be successful ultimately in asserting privilege considering the fact that he's already tweeted and spoken about some of his conversations with the former FBI Director, even going so far as to suggest on Twitter that some of those conversations may have been recorded. Experts say the president can't use executive privilege as a shield in one context and as a sword in the other. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Good work pointing it on the tape conversations. Kellyanne Conway, she wouldn't even speak to that this morning when asked about that element just to know it's there. Great to see, Athena. Thank you. So OutFront tonight, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley. He's of course is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thanks so much for the time.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Oh, you're welcome. Great to be with you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thank you. So, a lot of big questions but here's the singular big question at the moment. Will the president try to stop Comey from testifying though this executive privilege? Do you think he will? Do you think he has a case?
MERKLEY: Well, I think -- I don't think he will because it will be simply more coverup and more obstruction and I don't think he has a strong legal foundation to succeed. We have seen him do so many things already. He's gone to at least four major officials to try to whitewash this and have them testify in public that there was nothing to be seen. They were turn -- he was turned down. We saw him both protect Flynn and then pressure Flynn. We saw him pressure Comey and then fire Comey. It's been one thing after another where they've been trying to create this screen to prevent the public from getting to the bottom both what the Russians did but also how the Trump campaign either conspired or coordinated with the Russian operation.
BOLDUAN: But on this question, it's not like the White House says we've got nothing to hide, let's hear what Comey has to say. White Press Secretary Sean Spicer again today is basically saying that they're still looking into it. So, if the White House does go to court and try to stop him, what do you say?
MERKLEY: Well, we must expedite that court proceeding. Hopefully it will be a minimal delay and hopefully the courts will find as the president has already talked about this. So it's this critical information to an investigation, it's essential that the access occur through the Senate Intelligence Committee.
BOLDUAN: Let's talk about Comey for a second. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham today, he called Comey's -- he called Comey's credibility into question basically painting him as a disgruntled employee and then he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Here's what I worry about that he'll just focus on his conversation with the president and not answer any other questions because of the investigation. That would be a hit job on President Trump and I hope this hearing doesn't become a hit job on President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Do you think this hearing is going to be a hit job on the president?
MERKLEY: Well, no, I don't think so. It's been widely reported that he made memos of his conversations with the president. He's obviously got to be in sync with what he himself wrote. The committee should subpoena, should obtain those memos as well. In an investigation, you can't be afraid to go forward because if anyone witness and any one moment might have gave you the complete story, you have to go to ever source, you have to pursue the leads that come from those sources and then build this vision of what really went on. And so, it's so important that both the Senate Intelligence Committee pushed forward and the special prosecutor pushed forward expeditiously. This is potentially treasonous action against the United States of America, if there was -- if there was coordination or conspiracy to undermine the integrity of our presidential election.
BOLDUAN: And quite a few steps before we get anywhere -- anyone, we get anywhere close to treason. But on this question, I mean, let's be honest. With Comey there's not a lot of love lost between -- not a lot of love lost between democrats and the former FBI Director. We don't need to go back into everything the democrats didn't like about what Comey did. Do you think he has a credibility problem?
MERKLEY: I think an FBI Director who has been trained through years of service is considered a very credible witness, even if they didn't have written records, even if they hadn't had conversations with some key colleagues about those talks with the president. So I think that he probably is going to be considered an extremely credible witness.
BOLDUAN: We will see. Everyone's take on that one. On the election hacks, Vladimir Putin has had a lot to say in the past couple of days. Yesterday, he seemed to suggest that the hack into the election could have come from Russia but that the Russian government did not have a hand in it. Listen to this, Senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Hackers are free people just like artists. They wake up in a good mood and painting. Same with hackers. They woke up today, read something about the state-to-state relations, that they are patriotic, they contribute in a way they think is right. The fight against those who say bad things about Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Do you think he's admitting something new here? How do you intercept this?
MERKLEY: Well, Putin's trying to put the best face on his operation. We already know and it's in the public realm that the Russian operation included a thousand trolls who weighed in on social media as if they were Americans, that they up botnets around the world to repeat that social media. That Russian times invented faults towards them, amplified both through their botnet and through their trolls. And so for to say, hey, there's one component of this, maybe we weren't involved, maybe just a group of volunteers happened to have done something is extraordinarily disingenuous.
BOLDUAN: And calling -- and patriotic hackers, does that have a nice ring to it for you?
MERKLEY: Rights, right, right, right. Well --
BOLDUAN: I'm only playing. MERKLEY: So, certainly he wasn't -- he's not ready to take
responsibility for what went on. But we know so much about the Russian operation. What we really don't know, though, is the degree to which it was coordinated with the Trump campaign. And that's what we have to get to the bottom of. And by the way, so much of what we're talking about has to do with the president teams efforts to then try to eliminate sanctions on Russia. They were very eager to do so. A lot of these meetings have to do with that.
Right now in the foreign relations committee in the senate, we are pushing, the democrats are pushing to have the sanctions codified by the U.S. senate and house. We need to get that bill to the floor of the senate.
BOLDUAN: And some republican -- and there are quite a few republicans who are right there with you. Will it get to the floor and will it get to the president. What he does about that, that's a big question yet to be seen. Great to see you, senator. Thank you for your time.
MERKLEY: Yes. It's a bipartisan push.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
MERKLEY: You're very welcome.
BOLDUAN: Thank you, sir.
MERKLEY: Thank you, Kate. Coming OutFront next, new information on what Comey can and cannot say publicly about his meetings with President Trump. Former Nixon White House Counsel John dean is OutFront. Plus, more than 150 governors and mayors across the country banding together to back the president on his decision to pull out of the climate deal. Can they end run President Trump? And Press Secretary Sean Spicer short on answers an quick to disappear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: Today happens to be national leave work early day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Breaking news, new details tonight about what former FBI Director James Comey will reveal during his testimony next Thursday on Capitol Hill. Comey will talk about his conversations with President Trump but will not be able to talk about the Russia investigation. CNN also learning that Comey has been in constant contact with Special Counsel Robert Mueller about what he can and cannot share. Phil Mattingly is OutFront now with much more. So, Phil, just how delicate a dance is this going to be with what Comey can talk about?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extremely. And there's an reason why Bob Mueller, the special counsel and former FDBI Director Jim Comey had been speaking in advance of this testimony. Jm Comey wants to ensure and Bob Mueller also wants to ensure that nothing Jim Comey says runs afoul or cross wise with the investigation that's ongoing. Keep in mind, Kate, the investigation that everybody is really focused on right now is the federal investigation.
That has the potential to be a criminal investigation. And anything Jim Comey says that could essentially undercut that investigation or cause problems for Bob Mueller is something neither man, both of whom have a good relationship with one another over years of government service, wants to have on their record going forward. So that's people were being very specific. Those who are close to Comey's testimony, he will be willing to talk about the one-on-one conversations with the president but when it comes to the Russia investigation, when it comes to specifics not just in the public hearing, Kate, but also in the closed session that's going to follow, Jim Comey is going to steer clear.
BOLDUAN: That will be fascinating to see no matter what he can or cannot say. Of course there are democrats can't wait for Comey to testify. But then it could -- it's going to be the greatest show on earth. But what do republicans do? Did they attack Comey? Did they just send the president? How aggressive are they? How were they approaching this?
MATTINGLY: Look, the interesting other than this is before they left for recess last week, I had a number of senators say, they were just as intrigue, just as excited, just as cognizant of this kind of bombshell moment in the U.S. senate as anybody else regardless of political party. But Kate, you make a really good point. If you watch these hearings throughout history, big-time hearings that perhaps target or have the potential to target a White House, the political party that's shared with that White House, oftentimes those members are going to go out of their way to protect that White House.
Now, republicans aren't homogenous group. If you look at this committee historically, it's a bipartisan committee. The Russia investigation has been bipartisan as the investigation on the other side of the Capitol building seems to have fallen apart multiple times over the last couple of weeks. However, keep a keen eye on certain members of this committee, how they decide to frame these questions. As you talked about earlier with Lindsey Graham, there are a lot of questions about what Jim Comey is bringing to the table, why these issues have come up, why so many leaks have happened. All of these things are going to be fair game, it will be very, very interesting to watch and I'm pretty sure everybody regardless of party is going to be doing just that on Thursday.
BOLDUAN: Yes. And who takes on what role. We're going to be watching so closely. Great to see you, Phil. Thank you. OutFront with me now, John Dean, Nixon's White House Counsel during the Watergate scandal and CNN Senior Political Analyst Mark Preston. Gentlemen, let's get to it. John, James Comey and Robert Mueller, they go way back. We know that they've talked or been in almost constant contact and they've talked about what Comey can and can't say during testimony. Could there be any kind of a conflict of interest problem here because of this relationship?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I don't think so. They're both professionals, they're both prior prosecutors, they're both directors of the FBI. If anybody can walk the fine line and say what should be said and refrain from saying what should not, it's Jim Comey. He's a -- he's a professional. I think we'll see it in action in these hearings.
BOLDUAN: And Mark, I think it's pretty easy for people to guests what the worst case scenario for the president would be coming out of this hearing. What's the best case scenario?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The best case scenario is that Jim Comey goes to Capitol Hill and either flatly disputes everything that we've been reporting up into this point that he was pressured by President Trump to drop the investigation. But more likely, I think, what the White House is realistically hoping for is that he soft peddles it, so it doesn't seem as though Trump was pressuring him. Perhaps he was asking him, perhaps it was -- he did it in a way that didn't appear as he was trying to obstruct justice. That realistically could be the best scenario for Donald Trump coming out of this.
BOLDUAN: And that's interesting. And John, Former House Intelligence chair Pete Hoakster, he was on CNN earlier today and he thinks -- he seems to be a man on an island on this considering what everyone thinks but anyway, he thinks that the president would be well within his rights to try an block Comey from testifying. Listen to how he puts it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE HOEKSTRA, FORMER HOUSE INTEL CHAIRMAN: It sets a dangerous precedent that the president's conversations, you know, private conversations can be revealed. It will be a he said-he said type of thing. It is one side of the story. I don't think that helps the process --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Congressman --
HOEKSTRA: -- move forward. So in that case the president can I think and would rightfully assert executive privilege.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: John, you've been there. Is he right?
DEAN: I don't think there's an executive privilege in that situation to be invoked. If a president wants to have executive privilege it's typically negotiated with the committee, not with the witness. But in this situation there's no leverage over Comey should he decide he wants to testify about his conversations with the president. And it -- these are not the kind of conversations that have ever fallen within the scope of executive privilege, particularly since they have shades of potential obstruction of justice or showing a pattern of obstruction.
BOLDUAN: And you say he's lost his leverage. Is that just simply for the simple fact that he's fired James Comey? DEAN: That's exactly why he has no leverage over him.
BOLDUAN: Pretty straightforward over that one, I guess. So Mark, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway today, they both seem to try their best to skirt around the question of this exact thing, of executive privilege. Just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWAY: The president will make that decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the White House going to invoke executive privilege to prevent James Comey from testifying (INAUDIBLE) intelligence panel next week?
SPICER: That committee hearing was just noticed. And I think obviously, it's got to be reviewed. I've not spoken to counsel yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Mark, what is your take on this? Why is the White House seeming to dance around this issue? Is this what you're trying to build up more suspense or something?
PRESTON: Well, a couple of things. One is they very well may have no idea where the president is on this issue and his lawyers are trying to figure it out. Another idea is that the facts, no matter what they say, the president could turn around and change his mind, you know, within five seconds, five minutes, five hours, five days, but let me get a little more strategic about it. The idea that they haven't coming out and says yes or no to executive privilege might be a way of them floating a trial balloon to see how the general public would accept the idea of them -- of the president trying to do so because if there really is no blowback and we're going to hear about this all weekend. Their theories will blow back to it and then perhaps they may try to do so if they feel like they need to hide something from congress during this testimony.
BOLDUAN: The old trial balloon strategy, it's used like every day with every administration.
BOLDUAN: Great to see you both. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. OutFront next, why isn't Sean Spicer speaking of Sean Spicer answering many questions right now. Simple ones like does the president believe climate change is a hoax? And President Trump under fire for his America first strategy, but how is it playing with his supporters?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why shouldn't the American citizen be first in the eyes of the American government?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BOLDUAN: And breaking news tonight. A stunning lack of answers from the White House on a key and fundamental question. Does President Trump believe climate change is a hoax?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes or no. Does the president believe that climate change is real and a threat to the United States?
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: You know what's interesting about all the discussions we had, the focus remained on whether put -- Paris put us as a disadvantage and in fact it did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president believe today that climate change is a hoax?
PRUITT: Is Paris good or bad for this country? The president and I focused our attentions there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should you be able to tell the American people whether or not the president still believes that climate change is a hoax?
PRUITT: I've answered the question a couple of times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He still believe it's a hoax.
SPICER: I am not -- have an opportunity to have that discussion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it possible for you to have that conversation with him and then report back to us at the next briefing?
SPICER: Oh, If I can, I will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And while the White House refuses to answer that question, across the country more than 150 governors and mayors are vowing now to ignore the president's decision to pull out of the climate deal. Kyung Lah is OutFront.
KEVIN DE LEON, CALIFORNIA SENATE PRESIDENT: -- California, we're not debating if the earth is still flat.
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The reaction across the country swift and nowhere more than in California from the state's top lawmakers to the governor. This weekend looking to the far east past President Trump pledging a separate California-China climate change pact.
[19:30:11] GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: We are forming the world against this deviant move on the part of President Trump.
LAH: Also working around the White House, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, standing steadfast with the president of another country, France, while defying the U.S. president's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, U.N. ENVOY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Americans don't need Washington to meet our Paris commitment. Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it.
LAH: Bloomberg, the U.N. envoy for climate change, says his charity will foot the $15 million bill. And a coalition of governors, mayors and businesses will meet the Paris environmental standards instead of Washington.
They're joined by more than 150 mayors pledging to uphold the Paris agreement. The local leaders say states and cities set emissions standards and environmental protection can lead to growth. A belief not shared by the White House.
TRUMP: It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many, many other locations within our great country before Paris, France. It is time to make America great again.
LAH: The mayors of two of those cities firing back.
JOHN MCNALLY, YOUNGSTOWN MAYOR: We are little bit confused how we got thrown into the discussion about the Paris accords. And the U.S. withdrawal away from the agreement is not going to create more jobs in the Youngstown area.
BILL PEDUTO, PITTSBURGH MAYOR: This city does not support the initiatives that he is doing. This city is adamantly opposed to him. And for him to then use this city as his example of who he is elected to represent, he's not representing us at all.
LAH: Multiple CEOs from Wall Street to Silicon Valley also responding, loudly. Many saying if the White House won't act, corporations will.
RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP: All of us, we know we have a problem. We know we've got to do something about it.
LAH: So, if industry, if the states and if all of these mayors do something about it, we spoke to a number of environmental experts, they say, yes, something actually will be done, something that will be in line with the Paris accord.
But, Kate, when Mayor Bloomberg says that the United States is actually still a part of the Paris accord with or without the president, that's not technically true. The United States is indeed out but unofficially, the work can keep going forward because all the levers are pulled at the local level -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Kyung, great to see you. Thank you so much.
LAH: You bet. BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT now, Van Jones, he's a former special adviser to
President Obama, and Bryan Lanza is deputy communications director for the Donald Trump campaign.
So, Brian, as Kyung lays out, now you have mayors from Smithville, Texas, to Ypsilanti, Michigan, and a lot in between and beyond, vowing to up hold the goals of the climate deal regardless of the president. Is this a repudiation of his decision?
BRYAN LANZA, FORMER DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: No. Listen, I think it's a good thing for our country. I think the more people that engaged -- that get engaged in this issue, the more people that work with the White House. Here's what I heard what the White House said --
BOLDUAN: They're not working with the White House, Bryan.
LANZA: Absolutely. I think if you look at what the president said that there is a possibility for a revisit of a new Paris accord, whatever that might look like, that to me is a signal from a president saying he wants to work with groups. That to me is a signal from the president that I sat down with my advisors, the pros and cons, they've come up with the position that maybe a new type of agreement needs to step forward and let's work with the community as a whole, whether it's local, municipalities, states, or private businesses. That's the way the process should work.
BOLDUAN: Is that the thing that you saw, Van?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. Well, first of all, you can't negotiate with yourself. Trump has basically said that it took 25 years for nations to come together and now he wants to just kind of, you know, start something on his own. Nobody is saying they want to do that.
And in fact, what has happened is exactly what people predicted, he has created the biggest power vacuum on the planet by calling that press conference. And now, you see China rushing forward, California rushing forward.
And what he's actually done is give a tremendous gift to his opponents, because now you see the emergence of what you can call a green growth alliance where cities and states and businesses and tribes and governments are coming together, going around the president of the United States. He gave away power.
And the one thing nobody's talked about is that he also threw his own base under the bus. His Rust Belt ways needs jobs. Had he doubled down, they could be building wind turbines right now. They could be building smart cars right now, smart batteries, solar panels. Instead, he gave all that away to Germany.
So, he actually not only gave his opponents a huge opportunity, he gave his base a big nothingburger when they could have jobs. [19:35:06] It was one of the dumbest moves in politics. It's going to
go down in history. Not just bad for the planet, bad for Donald Trump and his voters.
BOLDUAN: TBD, stand by for that one to see if it's bad for Donald Trump and if his voters think that way.
Bryan Lanza's face tells me he disagreed.
But let me talk to you about this one, Bryan. We talked about the administration and most notably Sean Spicer still not answering the question of if the president still thinks climate change is still a hoax? But it is not just the climate, Bryan. The question after question today, it seems, the press secretary seemed unable to answer.
Here's just a few examples.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Can you clarify the nature of the conversations that Jared Kushner had with Russian officials?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I cannot answer this.
REPORTER: How can you not answer questions when the president himself tweets about it?
SPICER: All questions on this matter will be referred to outside counsel.
REPORTER: Do you have any update on the search for the FBI director?
SPICER: When we have an update on that, we'll let you know.
REPORTER: Who will replace Elon Musk and Bob Iger on the president's adviser council?
SPICER: I don't know at this point.
REPORTER: Is the White House going to invoke executive privilege to prevent James Comey to testify before the Senate Intelligence panel next week?
SPICER: I don't know.
REPORTER: Nobody's responding to any of those questions. I don't know where you guys are and actually finding spokespeople or people who want to respond to those, that would be helpful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Bryan, is the I don't know strategy from the briefing room, is this useful or helpful at all? LANZA: Listen, here's what I know. I think, you know, you guys are
looking at the quick sound bite with Sean and on camera interviews. That's fine, but if he answers a lot of interviews to the print media every day. I think every day, we see news stories coming out, with the White House providing responses to tons of stories and hundreds of outlets.
So, I mean, the theory that he's not communicating --
BOLDUAN: But some of those weren't tough ones, Brian. That was a lot -- I mean, that was kind of the prevailing theme throughout this briefing.
LANZA: He didn't provide a sound bite but he's answering questions to print journalists all the time, and I think that's what matters. The information flow is coming forward.
JONES: He didn't answer any of those questions to print reporters, podcasters, TV reporters. What you're seeing is Sean Spicer as the incredible shrinking man.
I remember when he first came out, he was full of bluster and energy. He looked like a depressed little kid standing up there. And ordinarily, when you see somebody like that, he's like a dead man walking in D.C. But it looks like he's just going to be a zombie character, just going to be there. They won't take him out of the job. They won't let him do his job. He has just to stand out there and be a pinata for the press.
And it's really sad because the questions that he's being asked -- listen, if he wants to answer those questions to print reporters, or to podcasters, or to third graders, he can't answer them because he apparently doesn't know or hasn't been given permission to speak.
BOLDUAN: Or he can't answer because Donald Trump will change the answer one tweet later.
But, Brian, you know Sean Spicer.
BOLDUAN: Answer what Van said.
LANZA: You know, it's -- listen, he is doing a best job he can with the information he has. Sometimes things move fast and he's not able to get back to those questions. But what I know of Sean is I know him to be a hard worker. He's proficient worker. He always respond -- he's always gone back to reporters during the campaign and I've seen that happening again.
You know, what you're looking is a week where they just wanted to focus on -- it looks like to me, they wanted to focus on print media and not created any sound bites for the cable outlets, which is only focused on, you know, distractions, rather than for what the real agenda is
BOLDUAN: Oh, come on.
LANZA: I thought he handled it rather well.
BOLDUAN: Oh, come on. It's not about distraction and looking for sound bite. Just looking for answers.
LANZA: It absolutely is about distraction.
BOLDUAN: It's so easy, Bryan, to answer one question, does the president think climate change is a hoax? Will you get back to us?
LANZA: Let me say this.
BOLDUAN: Ask him and get back to us on the question. All he said was, if I can, I will.
If I can ask him about it, I will get back to you? So, he's not taking to President Trump anymore?
LANZA: No. I think when I heard the question about global warming, I heard Sean answer in the way that I assume that the president would speak up on this issue rather soon. The only time you're talking about a major policy like that, you want to hear from the president, not from the communications director or the press secretary.
So, when I heard Sean say he wasn't going to answer the question --
JONES: I'm sorry.
LANZA: -- Kellyanne say that's the president, I'm looking forward to people asking the president. I mean, this is going to be a policy shift?
BOLDUAN: Me, too.
LANZA: Is this going to be a policy shift?
BOLDUAN: Me, too.
JONES: Wait, hold on a second.
LANZA: That should be something he announces. Not something --
BOLDUAN: Final thought, Van.
JONES: Listen to what you just said -- you just said that if you're going to talk about global warming and climate change, you should hear it from the president. The president just made the biggest announcement on earth about climate change yesterday and didn't answer the question. That's why he's being asked.
So, you can't point back to a president who just literally had a speech about this and ducked the issue. Listen, the incredible shrinking man, Sean Spicer. I hope they put him out of his misery and put somebody in there who could answer a question.
BOLDUAN: I would just love to speak with Sean if he would come on, if he would come on any of my shows to discuss his role and where it is. I know you support that, Bryan.
It's great to see you both.
LANZA: Transparency is an important thing.
BOLDUAN: Great to see you both. Thank you very much.
OUTFRONT next, breaking news: the White House finding new ways to block Democrats from getting answers from the administration. We'll explain.
And America first -- do Trump supporters think he's gone too far?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he can make it a little divisive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:43:54] BOLDUAN: New tonight, President Trump has a message: the world is no longer laughing at the U.S. But what do the president's supporters think now?
Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT.
TRUMP: Thank you. We're going to do it.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's America first campaign promise on full display.
TRUMP: We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore and they won't be. They won't be.
NOBLES: And here in Greenfield, Iowa, that message is hitting home.
RYAN FREDERICK, ADAIR COUNTY GOP CHAIRMAN: I think people are sick and tired of the federal government and in some instances, the state governments not working for their own people. Why shouldn't the American citizen be first in the eyes of the American government?
NOBLES: Barack Obama carried the state in 2012. Just four years later, Donald Trump won Iowa by nearly ten points. Many voters here embraced his campaign promise that he would stand up to the rest of the world.
FREDERICK: Why should we want to at the very least treat ourselves fairly first? And I think that was the message of Donald Trump's campaign. NOBLES: For small business owners like Teresa Conradi, setting up
shop at a farmers market in West Des Moines, the local economy feels strong.
[19:45:03] She voted for Donald Trump and believes he has her best interest in mind.
TERESA CONRADI, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: I think he can make it a little divisive. You know, I'm going to be -- you know, I'm going to be fair but I think he's trying but it's the way he knows how. You know, I think he's just got a different way of going about it.
NOBLES: It is a way that sometimes may make her feel uncomfortable.
CONRADI: It might appear it's coming off strong or whatever, but this is actually what he's really trying to do and it makes sense. You know, instead of taking everything he says literally, which I know you should be careful on that.
NOBLES: But to Trump supporters here, it is still a better way.
FREDERICK: I think every day that he wakes up and gets, you know, taken on by the Rachel Maddows of the world and the Kathy Griffins of the world, he becomes more popular with that group.
NOBLES: One of the main reasons President Trump continues to stick closer to those issues and the message that initially got him elected.
TRUMP: And we will make America great again!
NOBLES: And, Kate, one thing we found when talking to Iowa Republicans is that they're not all that interested in talking about the controversy over Russia. It's not that they don't think it's important, but they don't see it as impacting their day-to-day lives. In fact, one Iowa voter described it to me as just all being white noise -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: That's exactly what the White House hopes to hear right now.
Nice to see you, Ryan. Thank you.
OUTFRONT next, has the White House found a new way to block Democrats demanding answers, including answers on just that, Russia.
And Jeanne Moos on a White House disappearing act.
[19:50:29] BOLDUAN: Breaking news: the Trump administration tonight opening the door for the executive branch to ignore requests from Democratic lawmakers. The Justice Department says that the executive branch is not legally required to respond to information requests from individual members of Congress. Legally, they only have to respond to committees. All chaired, of course, by Republicans.
Democrats say it's a gag order.
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You're very welcome.
BOLDUAN: What do you -- what do you think is going on here with this?
NADLER: Well, I think is going on is this is a further example of the policy of the Trump administration to try to shut down all avenues of information that they don't control and they don't want, from firing Comey for investigating the, you know -- investigating Flynn, Flynn's firing, Flynn's meetings with Russians to many other things.
Now, by saying, in effect, if they are going to deny answering questions -- they haven't. They have been doing this. They've been -- we sent hundreds of letters collectively asking for information and most of them have been ignored.
This is new. Now, it's always been true that the legal obligations are probably triggered only by a subpoena. But to say that you're not going to answer any request that isn't backed up by an implicit threat of a subpoena is new. And, plus, remember the Democrats represent 45, 46 percent of the American people.
NADLER: Are you saying you're not going to answer questions, the executive branch is supreme and doesn't have to account for itself?
BOLDUAN: This gets to -- this gets to the question of transparency and this is something that Donald Trump hammered President Obama about, over and over again, about being the least transparent president of our time. But -- and it's not like the Obama administration was a picture of transparency, just so I can say that.
But is this just a fact of life of being in the minority party?
NADLER: No. Executive branch agencies normally answer all kinds of letters from all kinds of -- from all Congress members, individual committees. This is new.
BOLDUAN: So, you think this is more so?
NADLER: This should be very, very new. To have a policy saying -- to have a policy saying you're only going to respond to members of the majority party. Totally new, totally obnoxious and not serving the American people at all and a new low in transparency. And what do they have to hide?
BOLDUAN: They will answer those questions. Maybe or maybe not, depending on if you're asking for the chairman is asking. NADLER: That's the point. You cannot function if you can't get any
response from the executive branch.
BOLDUAN: You are in the House Judiciary Committee. You have called for the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign previously because of his undisclosed meetings with Russian officials. This week, more of your Democratic colleagues have jumped on board calling for his resignation with more undisclosed meetings coming out.
I will say this, though -- I don't recall Democrats calling for Loretta Lynch to resign, then attorney general, after her meeting with Bill Clinton during the Hillary Clinton campaign.
NADLER: There was nothing shown to be improper about that meeting.
BOLDUAN: How is this different?
NADLER: There was nothing shown to be improper about that meeting. It was politically wrong.
BOLDUAN: What if he says he forgot about these meetings?
NADLER: It was political -- well, up to a point. But to forget once, to forget twice, if we get more, I mean, there's a pattern here, whether it was Sessions or Jared Kushner or Flynn or Page.
The first thing is, we never met with any Russians. We haven't talked to any Russians. Oh, yes, we did meet with some Russians, but not during the campaign. Yes, during the campaign.
And, yes, we never met with anybody except the ambassador. Well, actually, we talked to some intelligence officials, or at least Page did and some others. We talked to Guccifer 2, the hacker.
There's a pattern of being dishonest.
BOLDUAN: Do you think you really can get traction from Jeff Sessions to resign? I mean, he's recused from any --
NADLER: He's recused, but he's still participated in the decision on Comey.
BOLDUAN: You don't think it's -- you don't think -- do you think he's really still involved?
NADLER: He's abused his recusal. Let's put it that way. He abused. He should not have been involved in that if he was truly recused.
And -- I mean, we've asked -- he and for that matter Jared Kushner to have -- we've demanded his security clearance be lifted because he lied on his applications, and we know he doubled down on his lie.
BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming in, Congressman. I appreciate it.
NADLER: You're quite welcomed.
BOLDUAN: Thank you. Have a great weekend.
OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on Sean Spicer's disappearing act.
[19:57:48] BOLDUAN: Where's Sean Spicer? Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now you see him --
SPICER: You're shaking your head here. I mean, it's true. You did it.
MOOS: Now you don't.
SPICER: You're free to use the audio.
MOOS: Sean Spicer is a little bit like the incredible shrinking man in the 1957 movie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll come right back?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course I will.
MOOS: Not in a dollhouse but in the White House, playing cat and mouse with the press.
Televised briefings have been rare lately. On Friday, Spicer resurfaced but wasn't able to give the president's views on climate change an exited ASAP.
SPICER: Today happens to be national leave work early day.
MOOS: On Wednesday, Spicer ditched cameras, holding an audio-only gaggle with that eyebrow raising answer to a question about President Trump's gibberish tweet.
SPICER: The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant like --
MOOS: Leaving reporters scoffing in disbelief.
Hey, turn that off. No cameras. Audio only.
We, too, can pull a Spicer. His briefings have been getting shorter.
SPICER: Thank you, guys.
REPORTER: How short are these going to be?
MOOS: One online commenter begged, please tell me that news outlets will play the audio-briefings over GIFs of Melissa Mccarthy-as-Spicer, be still my heart.
"SNL" may have been prophetic. MELISSA MCCARTHY AS SEAN SPICER: Is this like "The Godfather", when you kiss me no one ever sees me again?
ALEC BALDWIN AS PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes.
MOOS: It's as if Spicer is a hostage at his own briefings. As one poster noted, with a thousand-yard stare.
And when he briefed outside the White House, he got more grief.
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: He wasn't hiding in the bushes, OK? He was hiding among the bushes. OK?
MOOS: Reporters get treated like misbehaving kitties.
SPICER: One at a time. Cecelia?
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Can I see the --
SPICER: Hey, Major, Major, Cecelia is asking a question. That doesn't mean you get to jump in. I'm answering Cecelia's question, if you could be as polite as not to interrupt.
MOOS: It's enough to leave reporters --
SPICER: Please, stop shaking your head again.
MOOS: -- shaking their heads.
SPICER: Stop shaking your head again.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BOLDUAN: "AC360" starts right now.