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Trump Not Planning To Invoke Executive Privilege; Putin Refuses To Condemn Trump For Pulling Out Of Paris Agreement; Comey To Testify Before The Senate. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired June 3, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[00:07:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be sure to join us this afternoon, 2:30 Eastern on CNN All Access at the NBA finals, a CNN bleacher report special. Get you ready for the game two action.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hoping this series turns around and we get into a good -- with the good one.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the White House going to invoke executive privilege to prevent James Comey from testifying --

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And I think obviously, it's got to be reviewed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president can't use executive privilege as a shield in one context and as a sword in the other.

PETE HOEKSTRA, FORMER HOUSE INTEL CHAIRMAN: The president can, I think, and would rightfully exert executive privilege.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: It will be simply more coverup and more obstruction.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The behavior of Nunes is beneath the dignity of being a chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does the president actually believe brought (ph) climate change, does he still believe it's a hoax?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump hasn't made it clear where he stands on climate change.

JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This is one of the most cynical and, frankly, ignorant and dangerous, self-destructive steps that I've seen in my entire lifetime.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is New Day Weekend with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: I almost cut off James Earl Jones.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We shall never cut off James Earl Jones.

PAUL: No, we will not. Happy Saturday to you. We're glad to have you with us.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

PAUL: Of a countdown to Thursday, it is on, Former FBI Director, James Comey, set to testify publicly and arguably the most anticipated event since election night. And he's expected to reveal details of his private meetings with President Trump, information that could potentially be a game changer for the Russia probe.

BLACKWELL: That is if the president does not stop him, asserting executive privilege, which gives him the right to withhold private White House deliberations, let me get it out, and records from Congress.

Meanwhile, Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the president still has faith in his son-in-law and senior adviser despite different accounts on why Jared Kushner secretly met with the head of a Russian state- owned bank in December.

PAUL: Also, Russian President Vladimir Putin sending shockwaves with this claim, maybe patriotic Russian hackers hit the U.S. elections.

BLACKWELL: All right, first though, let's bring in CNN politics producer, Dan Merica. And let's just break it down and define this term, executive privilege. What is it and how could the president use it to stop James Comey from testifying.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS PRODUCER: Yes, hey, Victor. It's basically a presidential power that allows what goes on in the Oval Office and interactions with the White House and interactions, in particular, with the president to stay private.

It was most hotly debated during the Nixon administration and particularly during a Supreme Court case over the tapes that Nixon recorded in the Oval Office.

But it's really unclear whether Donald Trump even has the ability to claim executive privilege with his conversations with James Comey. Not only has Donald Trump already talked about them, but he's tweeted about them.

He's very -- you know, he's a prolific tweeter. He's tweeted and talked about what went on in these interactions, which may waive executive privilege.

So far, his aides are only saying that he's considering his legal options. They're not saying whether he is actually going to invoke executive privilege.

Take a listen to what they've said in the last couple of days.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the president is not going to invoke the executive privilege?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) super classified. The president will make that decision.

SPICER: That committee hearing was just noticed, and I think obviously it's got to be reviewed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so that's not a no.

SPICER: No, I was just saying, I don't -- literally, my understanding is the date for that hearing was just set. I've not spoken to counsel yet. I don't know what that -- what they're going to -- how they're going to respond.


MERICA: So far, they're really just keeping their options open. What is striking here at the White House is how -- the last week has really been dominated by talk of climate change. This coming week, it's going to be entirely dominated by something that President Trump really can't control. This testimony by James Comey on Thursday, as you've mentioned, it's the most hotly watched testimony I would argue in years and especially the biggest event in Washington since the election.

So, not only will people in the White House be watching this, but everyone around Washington, D.C. and the United States will be watching to see what James Comey says about his interactions with President Trump in the Oval Office.

BLACKWELL: All right, we now have to see if they'll be allowed to say it. Dan Merica --


BLACKWELL: -- thanks so much.

PAUL: So how likely is it that President Trump may exert executive privilege? Let's listen to what some experts are saying.


HOEKSTRA: 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 --


HOEKSTRA: -- move forward.


HOEKSTRA: So, in that case, the president can, I think, and would rightfully exert executive privilege.

MERKLEY: I don't think he will because it will be simply more coverup and more obstruction, and I don't think he has the strong legal foundation to succeed.


[07:05:03] PAUL: April Ryan, CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, with us now as well as Kelly Jane Torrance, deputy managing editor for the Weekly Standard. Thank you both so much for being with us. Let's talk about executive privilege real quickly here.

Is it even an option, as Dan Merica was pointing to, since the president himself, April, has already talked about it, tweeted about it? Does that make the possibility of him stopping this testimony from going forward even possible?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's always that possibility. But what the issue really is, is what actually happened in that meeting and that conversation with James Comey and President Trump.

Now, many Dems and Republicans on Capitol Hill want the process to play out because so many things have been impeded, to include the fact that the former FBI director was fired. They want this process to play out so they could find out exactly what happened.

And if President Trump does say, "You know, I exert executive privilege," it could, again, once again, look like he is impeding the process because this has been boiling and bubbling and there are so many questions and so many alarm bells as it relates to this Russian investigation.

If he does, indeed, say that, "I will executive privilege," that does not bode well, the optics are not good and it looks like he could be, once again, impeding the investigation. I mean, going back to Reagan, Reagan actually allowed everyone to go out on with the Iran-Contra issue and affair and talk. And I believe this president, for the optics and for the sake of letting this play out, he will need to let James Comey speak.

PAUL: It's -- at the end of the day, though, Kelly Jane, it's a he said-she said or he said-he said. Will anything that Director Comey has to say clarify the question of obstruction of justice if there is no evidence behind it?

KELLY JANE TORRANCE, WEEKLY STANDARD DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: Well, that's an excellent question, and I'm very curious as to what exactly Former Director Comey is going to say because just days before he was fired, he testified in front of a Senate committee and wouldn't comment on such questions. You know, senators asked him, "Has the White House been cooperating. Have they been tried to impede the investigation?" And he said he couldn't comment.

Now, that, of course, was when he was still FBI director. Will that change now that he is no longer FBI director.

It's a good question because now we have Robert Mueller, special counsel, investigating it. The investigation is still ongoing.

So there -- he could make an argument that he still can't comment on ongoing investigations. But, given all the leaks that his friends have been making to the press over the last few weeks ever since he was fired, it strikes me that he is dying to talk and dying to tell everyone about what happened. And, of course, he has those memos that he made at the time that he can refer to that are apparently very detailed in exactly what went on between him and President Trump.

PAUL: April, Director Comey, we understand, is in constant contact with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to solidify what he can and what he cannot reveal. What is the risk to compromising the investigation into Russian hacking itself?

RYAN: Well, Former FBI Director, James Comey, understands and -- what's at stake. And I'm sure he's -- he has his counsel. But when and if he does go to testify, I'm sure he will not step on the current investigation because, again, it's about the process playing out.

But he, right now, has to address issues of what President Trump tweeted about this meeting. And he also has to basically show his credibility on this issue after the president said this.

So, I believe Comey will go as far as he can to explain what happened in that meeting, but also understanding intrinsically as the former director of the FBI what he cannot say for the sake of the Mueller investigation.

PAUL: Kelly Jane, is there a possibility that James Comey could look like a disgruntled employee here?

TORRANCE: You know, that's one of the big worries that I have going into this. You know, as you say, it's -- everyone's going to be watching this. And you know, looking at some of the leaks that he and his people have made, it's a little concerning because, you know, the latest is I heard that he's angry that Department of Justice officials did not tell him ahead of time that they were unhappy with his leadership and were considering firing him, you know.

Well, that is not the sort of thing you want to talk about your emotions the days before you're about to make a hugely important, possibly presidential shattering testimony.

[07:10:05] And I think that these leaks that he and his friends seem to be making are not helping his cause. And again, it doesn't matter why -- how he felt about being fired and, of course, he's upset about the way it was done. He talked about how he found out on television, his wife found out by seeing the television but that's not the issue. The issue is what happened between him and President Trump with this investigation and did the president try to impede it?

And I think talking about his emotions and how he was dealt for (ph) is -- that's personal and, you know, we can all maybe feel for him, but that's not what the country cares about and that's not what the country needs to hear the truth about.

PAUL: OK, April Ryan, Kelly Jane Torrance, always good to have your voices in this. Thank you for being here.

TORRANCE: Thanks, Christi.

RYAN: Thank you.

PAUL: Sure. And don't miss our special live coverage, Former FBI Director, James Comey, testifying before the Senate. It's this Thursday starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. We'll have it all for you live right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Next, Russian President Vladimir Putin is talking about election hacking. He says anyone could have been behind it, including patriotic hackers.

PAUL: Also, a warning from the Secretary of Defense. North Korea is "a clear and present danger to the U.S. and its allies".

BLACKWELL: Also, she was opposed to have been one -- the person with the president's ear. But Ivanka Trump now failed to convince her father about the Paris accord, while her husband is under some pretty tough scrutiny. The rough week in Washington is coming up.


[07:15:40] BLACKWELL: A clear and present danger, that's how Defense Secretary James Mattis describes a growing nuclear threat from North Korea.

PAUL: Speaking out at an Asian security conference, Secretary Mattis pledged to defend allies from any military threat in the region but he says other countries have to step up and pressure Pyongyang to stop developing nuclear weapons.


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: President Trump has made clear that the era of strategic patience is over. As a matter of U.S. national security, the United States regards the threat from North Korea as a clear and present danger.

The regime's actions are manifestly illegal under international law. There's a strong international consensus that the current situation cannot continue.


PAUL: And Secretary Mattis also told the crowd the U.S. will "do the right thing when it comes to standing by its allies in Asia".

BLACKWELL: New comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin, once again, just denying that Russia had anything to do with hacking of the U.S. election. But, he said it was possible that Russian patriots not affiliated with the government were potentially behind it.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Hackers are free people, just like artists. They wake up in a good mood and paint things. Same with hackers. They woke up today, read something about the state and state's relations, if they are patriotic, they contribute in a way they think is right.


PAUL: Now, yesterday, the Russian president spoke at length about this, also ridiculed the reaction to President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris accord. And he didn't stop there. Here's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was trademark Vladimir Putin, appearing on stage in a marathon interview forum. The Russian leader surprised the audience in English.

PUTIN: Don't worry, be happy.

TODD: Invoking the '80s singer, Bobby McFerrin, sarcastically describing the anger around President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement. But in his native tongue, the former Soviet spy turned politician was far less sunny, continuing to deny Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, while attacking former candidate, Hillary Clinton, saying her campaign just can't admit its own mistakes caused her loss.

PUTIN (through translator): They decided to say it's not our fault, it's the Russian's fault. It's like anti-Semitism, to blame the Jews for everything. We all know what this can lead to, nothing good.

TODD: At the same time, Putin spoke admiringly of Donald Trump's successful campaign.

PUTIN (through translator): The Trump team was more effective during the election campaign. He found an approach to the electorate that worked for him.

TODD: But he wasn't done there. On the heels of his comment on Thursday that Russian "patriots", not the Russian government might have hacked the U.S. election. Putin gave another denial, referring to U.S. intelligence reports on the hacking.

PUTIN (through translator): I read these reports. There is nothing specific in these reports, just assumptions and conclusions.

TODD: And he denied any discussions about sanctions between his government and the incoming Trump administration.

Analysts say Putin is looking for deniability, trying to prevent investigators from tracing any alleged interference in the election directly to him. But at the same time, they say, it appears he is loving the attention and the strife inside the U.S. political system.

WILL POMERANZ, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE KENNAN INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED RUSSIAN STUDIES: He now has a president who wants to have better relations with Russia. He has a scandal that has weakened the U.S. president. And he has a U.S. president who is busy lecturing his best allies about climate and about NATO. So there's lots of things that Putin is enjoying about the current crisis.


TODD: Vladimir Putin also came to the defense of the man who works for him here in Washington, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who's at the center of the investigations into Trump's aides contacts with the Russians. Putin said, "Our ambassador met with someone. That's what the ambassador must do." He said reports of secret deals before the inauguration are "plain hysteria" and said, "How should we stop that? Take a pill or something?"

We also reached out to Hillary Clinton's representatives for response to Vladimir Putin's comments about her campaign. They declined to comment.

BLACKWELL: All right, Brian, thanks so much.

Coming up, Former Secretary of State, John Kerry, blasted President Trump why he says that the president clearly doesn't know what he's doing.

PAUL: Also, growing questions about the diminishing role it seems of the White House Press Secretary, why semi-colon (ph) Sean Spicer "the incredible shrinking man".


[07:24:22] PAUL: Forty-four minutes past the hour, so grateful to have you with us here. You know, it could be some of the most consequential testimony to date, all eyes and ears on fired FBI Director James Comey and his testimony set for next Thursday. A source tells CNN he's expected to address private conversations with the president when he goes before lawmakers. Or, will he?

The White House contends President Trump will review whether to block Comey's testimony through executive privilege and claim the conversations were private.

BLACKWELL: CNN legal analyst and constitutional attorney, Page Pate, here with us. First, let me get to the issue of asserting executive privilege. [07:25:01] PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST & CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY:


BLACKWELL: If the president chooses to do this, how does it work?

PATE: Well, what he tries to do is basically inform Mr. Comey that he cannot testify to discussions that Comey had with the President because they're covered by executive privilege.

So the first step, usually, is to go to the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel and get a formal opinion saying that this would be covered by executive privilege and then notify Mr. Comey that he cannot speak. Then it's up to Comey as to what he's going to do. Is he going to listen to the President or go forward anyway?

BLACKWELL: But they could go to a federal judge.

PATE: Right. That would be the next step. If Comey says, "OK, you want me to stay quiet, then I'm not going to. Number one, I don't think executive privilege applies and there's nothing you can do about it anyway. And if I'm going to go forward and testify, the only thing the White House can do then is go to a court and try to block it."

BLACKWELL: So is this, excuse me, a matter of degrees that they can say, "We are asserting executive privilege over these specific conversations or this topic alone"?

PATE: Exactly. That's how it would have to be couched by the White House. They would have to say, "OK, you can talk about what we had for dinner when we met for dinner, but you cannot talk about specific discussions we had about the investigation."

BLACKWELL: OK. So now, do you believe that the president will assert executive privilege?



PATE: I think it would be crazy to do it because they'll lose. Executive privilege, whenever a court looks at it, whenever a president has tried to use it and presidents, many presidents have tried to use it. Nixon tried, he lost. Clinton tried, he lost. The Obama administration tried in the fast and furious investigation, they lost, too. Courts do not like to keep evidence of potential misconduct away from Congress or away from the public.

BLACKWELL: OK. So now, let's say that the president does not assert executive privilege and Comey does testify on Thursday. These are -- or as Christi just talked about, the memos, these contemporaneous notes that he took after his conversations with the President. I mean, how do you expect they will play a role in this? Is he going to simply be able to read from them, or will he have to rely on memory about these notes?

PATE: Well, I think first they'll rely on memory. They'll ask him, "What did you and the President talk about? Did you feel pressured by the President?" And I really think his testimony, if it is as advertised, is going to be very different from what President Trump has said about those meetings.

And so then the question is, well, who's right? Do we believe Comey or do we believe the president?

And then we go back to those memos and it is totally common, it is almost routine for any FBI agent or federal prosecutor to take notes or to make some sort of record of important conversations that they have. They testify to these things all the time in court.

So, if it comes down to a credibility question, he goes back to his memos that were made at the time. There's no reason for him to fabricate that back then. He had no idea he was going to be fine.

BLACKWELL: Now, we heard from the White House when Sally Yates was -- just days before Sally Yates was going to testify, Sean Spicer said, "We want her to go and tell her story."

PATE: Right.

BLACKWELL: We're not hearing that from the White House now.

PATE: No, no. In fact, they've already said they're reviewing the idea of executive privilege which, to me, means they're pretty desperate because that is a long shot. I don't see legally how they could successfully assert executive privilege in the situation.

BLACKWELL: Do you think the decision has already been made? I mean, Kellyanne Conway came out, didn't talk about it. Sean Spicer said that it's under review.

PATE: When you think so. I mean, it's not like Comey just said yesterday he's going to testify. We knew this was going to happen. In fact, back when Trump set out the tweet about, he better hope they're not tapes. I anticipated that if Comey were ever to talk about this publicly, that the only way the president could keep him quiet is to try to assert executive privilege. So they must have known about this.

BLACKWELL: Well, we do know that this is a president who, in some cases, will bring his decision to the communications department at the very last minute.

PATE: Right.

BLACKWELL: We can go back to the firing of James Comey where they have found out it would have sent out. So, how much of this is based on optics, and how much of it is based on protecting the president's conversations in this discussion of executive privilege?

PATE: Well, if it's optics, it's really a bad call. Because what are they saying by suggesting we need to assert executive privilege? They're saying we expect Comey to say something different about those meetings. And that means somebody is lying, and America is going to have to figure out who it is.

BLACKWELL: All right, well, I've got a lawyer in front of me. I want to jump to another topic involving the White House. There was an exchange yesterday during the briefing between a reporter and Sean Spicer about a conversation about the Russian investigation, and this was Spicer's response. Let's watch.


SPICER: As I've mentioned the other day that we are focused on the president's agenda, and going forward, all questions on these matters will be forwarded to outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But how can you not answer questions about it when the president himself tweets about it?

SPICER: I just -- all -- we're focused on his agenda and all -- going forward, all questions on this matter will be referred to outside counsel. Jill (ph). Jill.

JILL: Yes, so thanks. Firstly, I know that (ph) you're not responding to any of those questions. I don't know where you guys are in actually finding spokespeople or people who want to respond to those, that would be helpful.


BLACKWELL: So if you couldn't hear, Jill there said that if you guys are actually finding new spokespeople or people who respond to these questions, that would be helpful.

So, thus far, although they are referring the questions to Marc Kasowitz, the president's personal attorney and a spokesperson there, there is no spokesperson.

[07:30:06] Is there some requirement at all for them to answer these questions once they've been referred?

PATE: Not legally.


PATE: No. And in fact, if I'm representing someone like the president in an investigation like this, I'm going to let those calls come in and I'm not going to return them. We do not want to add field to the fire. You don't want to make any more public statements that can later be used against you.

BLACKWELL: All right, thanks (inaudible) thanks so much for helping us understand it.


BLACKWELL: All right, Christi.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Ivanka Trump has been called the only person, the president truly listens to. This week, it seemed she just wasn't able to convince him to stay in the Paris climate agreement. Meanwhile, then you've got her husband Jared Kushner whose under scrutiny for possible secret Russian connections. Then that's why, CNN Politics, Editor-at-Large, Chris Cillizza says, Ivanka had the worst week in Washington.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think it was Ivanka's worst week, because the biggest things that she said she could bring to this White House Christi was a moderating influence and voice that she was someone who knew how to play in the world community and someone who knew how to influence her father in ways that other people hadn't have that experience with. That didn't work out this week for a very big initiative.

The Paris climate accords, 194 countries have signed on to it. The United States now joins Syria and Nicaragua who is not signed on to, because they think the conditions are too lenient as the only three countries that haven't. So this puts the U.S. in a very different place from the rest of the world. Ivanka Trump I think thought very highly of her ability to convince her father that pulling out of these accords was not the right move politically or from a policy perspective and she was not able deliver. Politics is about results and this week, at least, those results weren't there for her.

PAUL: Reason (ph), we -- Chris's full article by the way. Ivanka Trumps worst week in Washington, that's later today on You'll find it there.

BLACKWELL: Well, president Trump and really the entire White House refuses to answer one simple question for the American people, not for us but for you. Does the president still believe that climate change is a hoax?

PAUL: Also White House briefings seem to be cut short, fewer on camera briefings. The role of White House press secretary Sean Spicer had a lot of people questioning, is he the incredible shrinking man?


PAUL: Well mortgaged rates drops slightly this week. Here's your look.


PAUL: Well, there has been some growing backlash since president Trump announced he's pulling the U.S. out of the landmark 2015 climate deal, the pack with the high point of former president Obama's environmental agenda and now are nearly 200 nations aiming at reducing emissions of planet warming green house gases, of course.

BLACKWELL: But the president says, the agreement imposed unfair environmental standards on American businesses. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, he went after the president and his decision to back out of the deal.


JOHN KERRY, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: I mean I would ask Donald Trump, does he think that president Xi, president Macron that the prime minister of great Britain, the chancellor of Germany don't know what they are talking about? Are they stupid? Is he accusing them of somehow buying into a hoax? This is one of the most cynical and frankly ignorant and dangerous self-destructive steps that I've seen in my entire lifetime in public life.


PAUL: Now the White House is refusing to say whether president Trump believes in global warming or if he believes it's a hoax as he said on the campaign trial.

BLACKWELL: In Friday's press briefing, the head of the environmental protection agency Scott Pruitt and White House press secretary Sean Spicer, they either wouldn't or couldn't because they just don't know give a straight answer on the president's position.


UNIDINTIFIED FEMALE: Does the president believe the climate change is real and a threat to the United States?

SCOTT PRUITT, EPA MANAGEMENT: You know, what's interesting about, all the discussions we had to the last several weeks have been focused on one singular issue. Is Paris good or not for this country? That's the discussions I've had with this president. And whether they were good environmental objectives that were achieved as a result on Paris, his decision was no and that was the extent of our discussions. Yes ma'am. Yes ma'am?

UNIDINTIFIED FEMALE: So on climate change, yes or no?

PRUITT: Yes ma'am.

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: Does the president believe today that climate change is a hoax, that something, of course, he said in his campaign, when the poll was up and nearby office with kind of couple of days ago, he refused to answer. I wonder if you can speak for him.

PRUITT: You know, I did answer the question because I said the discussions the president and I had over the last several weeks have been focused on one key issue. Is Paris good or bad for this country?

UNIDINTIFIED FEMALE: But you're the EPA Administrator, shouldn't you be able to tell the American people whether or not the president still believes climate change is a hoax? Where does he stand?

PRUITT: As I indicated, several times in the process, there's enough to deal with, with respect to the Paris agreement and making an informed decision about this important issue. That's what our focus has been the last several weeks. I've ask -- I've answered the question a couple of times. UNIDINTIFIED MALE: Does the president share the EPA administrator's thoughts on this topic and why is the administration sort of backed away from using the words climate change?

PRUITT: I don't -- I have not as I had mentioned, this guy had not an opportunity to specifically talk to the president about that.


PAUL: So there's a little known organization that apparently had a big influence on the president's climate decision.

BLACKWELL: CNN Senior Investigator Correspondent Drew Griffin tells us who they are and also we found out who's financing them.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Located in a nondescript office in Washington D.C., there competitive enterprise institute and its Director of Energy may have just helped change the political and environmental direction of an entire nation.

And it's been a big win now for you, correct? I mean this is kind of a coup for your group.

[07:40:02] MYRON EBELL, COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: It's a small organization. We have been very persistent. We haven't given up. And I think we have to a large extent finally prevailed through the actions of president Trump and his administration.

GRIFFIN: Myron Ebell has the administration's ear. He ran president Trump's EPA transition team. He supported the president's pick of a climate change skeptic, Scott Pruitt being chosen as EPA director. And he confirms President Trump rescinding of six Obama era executive orders and that curbing climate change and regulating carbon emissions was part of his action plan.

And from the moment the Paris accord was signed by the United States, he has worked to persuade the U.S. to get out of it. Just weeks ago in a White House inner circle was battling over what to do about Paris, CEI put out this T.V. ad reminding the President what he had promised to do.

TRUMP: We're going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of the United States tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, don't listen to the swamp. Keep your promise. Withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty.

GRIFFIN: That was pressure, right? Were you delivery trying to remind not the people, not the public, but the President what he said?

EBELL: Yes. There's a large wing of people who proudly identify as part of the basket of deplorables in the Trump administration. And there are bunch of people who are much more comfortable identifying as part of the swamp. So there was a debate, a real debate in the White House and in the white or the cabinet. So we just wanted to remind the President which side he is on.

GRIFFIN: Yesterday, the pressure paid off. Myron Ebell and several colleagues at the Competitive Enterprise Institute were at the Rose Garden when president Trump said this.

TRUMP: It is time to exit the Paris accord.

GRIFFIN: He claims to have never met president Trump before yesterday yet his influence over the administration seems undeniable which scares environmentalist.

MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, PROFESSOR OF GEOSCIENCES AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: The access that Mr. Ebell and the competitive enterprise institute apparently and others who not only don't like the idea of implementing policy to protect us from climate change, but seem to have a thorough scorn for mainstream science, was and still is extremely disturbing.

GRIFFIN: Ebell calls much of the scientific data on global warming questionable. The institute has been accused of misinterpreting scientific studies and has according to scientist like Michael Oppenheimer created at far the misinformation to confuse voters. Who is paying for all this? That's a good question. Does the energy industry support you? Well, and all the industry support you?

EBELL: If you want to know --


EBELL: -- you'll have to talk to them, because under IRS non-profit law for 501(c)3 which we are a nonpartisan, non-profit public policy institute. We don't disclose our donors.

GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN Altanta.


PAUL: Now, tomorrow CNN Jake Tapper will continue the conversation, he's going to talking to Al Gore and Senator Mark Warner, that is tomorrow on "State of the Union" at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: Lots of questions but the press secretary does not have or is not giving the answers. We'll take a look at the challenges facing White House press Secretary Sean Spicer.

PAUL: And take a look at this sweet picture as we get word that there's been a 17th arrest in connection to the terror attacks in Manchester. Ariana Grande is there. She's visiting victims and getting ready to give that community a huge fundraiser.


[07:48:09] PAUL: Well White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer admitted not having been easy. BLACKWELL: No, it's not.

PAUL: He's been lampooned on late night television, now he's being labeled, "The incredible shrinking man."

BLACKWELL: Well CNN political commentator Van Jones says the White House is putting Spicer in a really rough position and making it really difficult to do his job.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What you're now seeing is Sean Spicer as the incredible shrinking man. I remember when he first came out he was full of bluster and energy. Live look, yeah, 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 could be there, they won't take him out of the job. They won't let him do his job. He just has to stand out there and be a pinata for a press.


BLACKWELL: Van added that he hopes that they put him out of his misery. You know, whether Sean Spicer stays ago, his day-to-day role really seems to be diminishing. The press briefings are getting shorter, there are fewer of them. They're no longer really daily press briefings.

PAUL: And there are no longer on camera either.


PAUL: So CNN's Jeanne Moos gives us her take on the incredible shrinking Spicer.




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 lightly incredible shrinking man in the 1957 movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You come like that?


MOOS: Not in a doll house, 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 and exited ASAP.

SPICER: For today, it happens to be national leave work early day.

MOOS: On Wednesday, Spicer ditched cameras, holding an audio only gaggle with the eyebrow raising answer to our question about President Trump's gibberish tweet.

[07:50:09] SPICER: The President and a small group of people know exactly what he meant. Like --


MOOS: Even reporters scoffing in disbelief. Hey, turn that off. No cameras, audio only. We too, can pull a Spicer that his briefings are getting shorter.

SPICER: Thank you guys.


MOOS: One online commenter begged, please tell me that news outlets will play the audio only briefings over gifs of Melissa McCarthy as Spicer. Be still, my heart. "SNL" may have been prophetic.

MELISSA MCCARTHY, COMEDIAN, "SEAN SPICER": No, wait, is this like "The Godfather", when you kiss me and no one ever sees me again?


MOOS: It's as if Spicer is a hostage at his own briefings, as one poster noted, "thousand-yard stare." and when he briefed outside the White House, got more grief.

STEPHEN COLBERT, THE TONIGHT SHOW HOST: He wasn't hiding in the bushes, OK? He was hiding among the bushes, OK?

MOOS: Reporters get treated like misbehaving kiddies.

SPICER: One at a time, Cecilia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I see the fish today?



SPICER: Major. Hold on. Major, major -- Cecilia is asking a question. That doesn't mean you get to jump in.

UNIDINTIFIED FEMALE: Lucky, this bush --


SPICER: I'm actually asking Cecilia a 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: (Inaudible) Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


PAUL: Any time you add children, there's going to be a laugh, I'm just saying.

BLACKWELL: A little good. Jeanne Moos, thanks for that.

PAUL: Yeah.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn to former FBI Director James Comey headed to Capitol Hill to testify on Thursday in arguably the most anticipated event since election night. Will, can president Trump stop him?

PAUL: Also Ariana Grande in Manchester. Look at this picture here, she's stopping by to visit the victims. She's planning a benefit in their honor. All of this as we hear, there had been another arrest in the case.

BLACKWELL: But first though, did you know that there are more guns than people in this country? So how can people feel safe in a country with so many guns?

PAUL: That will come out, W. Kamau Bell try to find out on the next United Shades of America tomorrow night at 10:00 Eastern.


W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: What are your thoughts on guns in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just grab your head and just scream, so what can we do?

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: How do we convince young people that firearms are not the solution?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many of my friends were killed because of guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have a gun problem, we have a heart problem. There's no sanctity of love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think everybody should be able to own a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every round has two things attached to it, a jail sentence, and a lawyer.

BELL: Is it irresponsible to not do all you can to protect your family?


[07:57:20] PAUL: Well I want to share with you this morning some new information, we'll getting the police had made another arrest just of the investigation into the Manchester's suicide bombing which brings the total number arrested to 17. Six of them have so far been released without a charge.

In the mean time, Ariana Grande is back in the city this morning. And now less than two weeks after the terror attack in her concert.

BLACKWELL: She visited a hospital where victims like eight-year-old Lily Harrison. Look at this picture, the recovering there. Lily's mom's says Ariana sat on the hospital bed, and tell Lily she was proud of her, and says that Ariana's visit has helped the victims focus on the kindness of people rather than the hate.

PAUL: Acts, we understand. Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Usher, Pharrell all joining Ariana Grande for that tribute concert, it's tomorrow night and all of the money rates will go those victims of that Manchester attack.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Bill Weir is on a new adventure inspired by his nomadic childhood moving around the country. Weir delves into his own and America's past to examine a nation divided under the current political climate.

PAUL: He actually went back to his hometown where he took a looked at his own family history.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wanted (ph), Sergeant Frank Miller, commander of tactical squad, crimes against the people, conspiracy to violate the civil rights of black people, minority groups, general inability to function as a feeling member of the human race.

While Milwaukee knew him as Sergeant Miller, I knew him as grandpa, and I loved him dearly.

DAN WEIR, UNCLE OF BILL WEIR: He was intimidating to a lot of people. But anybody whoever got to know him would realize he basically give the shirt off his back to you.

WEIR: This is my uncle Dan, Frank's youngest son.

DAN WEIR: He took his job very seriously. And if he had broke the law or you committed the crime, he's got a job to do.

WEIR: And my grandfather's memorabilia, I find a flip book of mug shots including a 19-year-old named Prentiss McKinney. PRENTISS MCKINNEY, INDIVIDUAL IN MUG SHOT BOOK: We come out there with love and with our hearts opened and our minds open, you understand. We love everybody. They love me. I don't -- it does that I don't love everybody. But a when a bigot throws a brick at me, I don't love him, you understand, and when they send in wild dogs across that street to bite, I'm going to cut his though throat.

WEIR: Hello.


WEIR: How are you this morning?

MCKINNEY: I'm old but I'm here, can't complain.

WEIR: I feel the same way. He tells me the local paper once dubbed him Milwaukee's angriest young Negro. Today, the youth has passed, the anger has not. Do you recognize him?

MCKINNEY: Yeah. This picture captures him, yeah. His was a real.

[08:05:06] WEIR: And his men.

MCKINNEY: Tac squad was incorporated.


PAUL: So interesting. You could hear much more.