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CNN NEWSROOM

James Comey: House GOP's Russia Probe a Wreck; Michelle Wolf's Stand-Up Act Sparks Controversy and Debate; Trump Tells Supporters He'll be Impeached if Dems Win Midterms. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 30, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[10:30:00] CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Did the House Intelligence committee at all serve a good investigative purpose during all this in your observations?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Not that I can see.

TODD: Just totally too politicized?

COMEY: Yes, and it wrecked the committee and it damaged relationships with the FISA court, the Intelligence Community, it's just a wreck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just a wreck. Joining us now, Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst here.

So what's the point? Why have these political committees -- if you're going to have a special counsel investigating with grand juries and whatnot, what role do the committees have?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They really have an informational role for the Congress to make sure that the -- you know, the investigation is being done properly. But I think the whole problem with the Intelligence Committee doing this investigation, when you see some of the public statements made even by the chairman was that they didn't have complete information. They don't have access to Mueller's level of information.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Right.

CALLAN: So they're issuing a report that's based on incomplete sources.

HARLOW: Gowdy said, you know, according to people we could interview, but there were a bunch of people we couldn't interview. I mean, that's stunning for many of the American people to process.

CALLAN: So what's the point of doing the investigation if you're going to say, well, we're going to give you a report and reach a conclusion based on incomplete information?

BERMAN: Well, a cynic could say the point is so that the president can say what he's been saying the last few days is, look, the House Intelligence Committee cleared me.

HARLOW: Right.

CALLAN: I think what's really sad about this is that usually the Intelligence Committees have been united and bipartisan, understanding that the nation's secrets have to be protected. Other committees split on partisan grounds. But now I think Comey has got a point here. You've destroyed these committees by these reports.

HARLOW: Let's switch gears. Fellow attorney of yours, Michael Avenatti, representing Stormy Daniels, was on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper yesterday, and Jake, at the end of the interview, asked him about this deal that Michael Cohen reportedly brokered with a really rich Republican who had a prominent role in the RNC, Elliott Broidy, about an affair with a Playboy model. She got him impregnated. Broidy paid her off. Apparently $1.6 million. Anyways, Avenatti is suggesting that maybe it wasn't Broidy who was Cohen's client. That maybe someone else impregnated this Playboy model. Listen to this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: I find it very, very curious, Jake, at a minimum that Michael Cohen represented Mr. Broidy in connection with that. My understanding is that Michael Cohen had no involvement, no knowledge of Mr. Broidy during this time period, and that's from a very good source and someone with details relating to this transaction.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You think it's somebody else that maybe impregnated this Playboy model?

AVENATTI: Well, I think it maybe.

TAPPER: Are you suggesting it's President Trump?

AVENATTI: I'm not suggesting anything right now but I'm going to tell you this, we're going to get to the bottom of that just like we're going to get to the bottom of the NDA agreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: What is Avenatti trying to do here?

CALLAN: Well, he's clearly dropping another moist little publicity morsel as he often does. But here the suggestions clearly I think that the president might be the person that we're going to find out was using this billionaire as a front for a settlement.

HARLOW: Isn't that reckless to do without proof?

CALLAN: Well, it's totally reckless but you notice he doesn't mention any names, leaving us to draw the ultimate conclusion that any normal person would draw. So I don't know how this will play out. But I will say there has been legitimate criticism, by the way, of, for instance, one of the attorneys involved in Stormy Daniels representation early on and also in Karen McDougal's preparation early on has a close relationship with Michael Cohen. So whenever one of these women seems to get paid off in Los Angeles, somewhere along the line Cohen is involved and maybe arguably there is a link to Trump.

BERMAN: Can I ask you with Avenatti who has done, you know, fascinating legal job and political job here at the same time, since he's taken on the Stormy Daniels case, and has had some success and failure in the courtroom, but had a tremendous amount of success in the public sphere?

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: Can a statement like that ever bite him back in court? Could a judge ever look at the totality of some of these things that he says and say you got to stop this?

CALLAN: You know, I think he's on very dangerous ground, particularly in federal court. Many federal judges get very angry about lawyers who try their cases in the press.

HARLOW: The court of public opinion.

CALLAN: And, you know, and he's been so effective at, you know, getting his message out. And you know, the one thing, and I said it to him the last time I ran into him here at the network, I said, you know, where are you going with this? Because what are your damages ultimately in the case? Remember, Stormy Daniels got $130,000 for her silence. She is saying her reputation has been damaged because they say she's a liar now. What's a jury going to award for that? Not a whole lot. So what really is this case about? Publicity. All right?

BERMAN: Thanks very much. Paul. Appreciate it.

CALLAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: So was it funny or was it too far? I suppose, was it both? That's the debate right now about comedian Michelle Wolf and the White House Correspondents' Dinner. The president now says that dinner is dead. Is it?

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[10:38:50] MICHELLE WOLF, COMEDIAN: We are graced with Sarah's presence tonight. I have to say I'm a little star struck. I loved you as Aunt Lydia in the "Handmaid's Tale." I actually really like Sarah. I think she's very resourceful. Like she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's lies. It's probably lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: So what do you think? Do you think Michelle Wolf went too far with those jokes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend? The president certainly does. Some journalists do. What does it all mean? Is there fallout?

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, comedian, host of the "Not So Nice Advice" podcast Chuck Nice and CNN senior media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

Chuck, you're on team it was just comedy.

(LAUGHTER)

CHUCK NICE, HOST, "NOT SO NICE ADVICE" PODCAST: It was beyond comedy. That was absolutely sublime. That joke, you just heard, it's one of best constructive jokes that I've heard in a very long time. First of all, for those of you who think that this had anything to do with the appearance of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you are either willfully misleading yourself, or you're perhaps, I don't know, not so perceptive, I'll put it that way because I don't want to be indelicate myself.

[10:40:09] But the truth of the matter is that is a joke about lies. That's what that joke is about. What she did in that moment where she spoke truth to power, which is part of being a comedian, and what I like about what she did completely was she was attacking hypocrisy. The entire comedic bit that she put down for 19 minutes was an attack on hypocrisy. And no one was safe. No one.

HARLOW: So as John and I were sitting on set watching this live, as it was all taking place, we sort of, you know, look at him and go, wow, wow, wow. And as you know, Brian, I called it X-rated.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: X rated, yes.

HARLOW: Which I think is not debatable. It was X rated.

STELTER: Yes. It was X rated.

HARLOW: But also the point was made by one of our panelists and increasingly by the public that the stakes are different now because of what the president has said and meant.

STELTER: I think there is a feeling that --

HARLOW: Some say he's used language that he calls locker room talk.

STELTER: Yes.

HARLOW: Which many don't see that way about women. And he's meant it, not in the form of jokes.

STELTER: You know, sometimes we say it was a line, did this person cross the line? But is there a line anymore? I think the Trump presidency raises that question about where the line is given how many times the president has crossed what we used to think was a line. And I think that was the tension of this night. The president wasn't there, it changed the event in a big way. When the president is there, you have a comedian, in order to respond to the president's jokes kind of as a rebuttal. It changes the gravity in the room when the president is not there. And maybe that's the fundamental problem here.

BERMAN: We have some sound just to remind people of what the president has said in the past that things that were not part of a comedy routine. Listen.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know what I said. I don't remember. Rosie O'Donnell is disgusting. I mean, both inside and out. You take a look at her, she's a slob.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a war hero. Five and a half years as a POW.

TRUMP: He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured. OK. I hate to tell you. Jeb Bush is a low-energy person. For him to get things done is hard. Maxine Waters is a very low I.Q. individual. We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. So that's the president there. That's sort of the juxtaposition.

Chuck, I will say, you say, you know, the line about Sarah Sanders was about lies, you know, she did compare her to someone in the "Handmaid's Tale," you know, physical appearance.

NICE: I'm not talking about that. I don't know the "Handmaid's Tale."

BERMAN: But there are people who did. You know, I'm not sure that's a flattering comparison. And also, you know, the eye shade reference is about appearance in a way. And I also frankly think that people, a lot of people in the room and in the audience heard -- didn't hear burn facts with a C.

HARLOW: Fat.

BERMAN: They heard burn fat. She did says burn facts with a C. It's crystal clear. So there may have been an issue of mishearing it right there. So there's been a lot of talk about this for a few days and controversy. We throw around the word controversy for Michelle Wolf, you know, put yourself in her shoes, how do you think she feels about this today?

NICE: I think she is loving every second of this. Quite frankly, part of being a comedian is standing flat-footed and saying, this is the truth that I am going to speak and I don't care how you feel about it. I don't care how you feel. That's part of -- if you can't find that within yourself, you cannot do comedy. You cannot placate to -- you cannot placate to your audience. You can't do it.

HARLOW: Look, she has a Netflix show coming out in a few weeks. So it's good to have people talking about you, right? Brian, I worry this is the navel-gazing, this is the press talking

about a dinner for the press about the press. Do you think the average American cares about this debate? Does it matter?

STELTER: I actually watched the -- I got a little bored at the dinner to be honest, and I left and I went to a restaurant next door. And I watched it on TV. I watched the program. So I watched the speech. Just like (INAUDIBLE) were at home. Nobody else in the restaurant cared. Nobody else in the restaurant was watching. But this does matter because it's now part of a partisan warfare. An ongoing tribal battle between the president and his opponents. He views the press as his enemy. And when you have a comedian up there to press dinner, making these jokes --

BERMAN: Invited comedian.

STELTER: That plays into his hand. Right.

BERMAN: Invited. They invited her.

STELTER: Yes, invited by the correspondents.

BERMAN: So they have to take some responsibility in a sense.

HARLOW: And they are, right?

STELTER: And they're expressing some regret, but they're not going as far as an apology which what some people like Andrea Mitchell and Ed Henry are asking about.

HARLOW: Right.

STELTER: I think there are insider Washington journalists who don't like the way this looks, who didn't like the optics of it. And I think a lot of folks in the rest of the country who are concerned about the lies and the deceit from the White House, they're thinking that's a much bigger deal than jokes about the White House.

NICE: All I know is this, where is the outrage for the Jake Tapper joke? OK? You want to talk about getting personal --

HARLOW: I think Tapper laughed.

NICE: I mean, seriously, whenever -- from now on, whenever Jake Tapper is having relations, I mean, do you know how hard it will be for him not to be scarred by these statements?

HARLOW: Do you know -- this is morning television.

STELTER: It's 10:30 in the morning, man.

NICE: What's that?

HARLOW: This is morning television.

NICE: Well. STELTER: I actually thought the line we should have talked more about

was the Flint comment.

HARLOW: Yes.

[10:45:02] STELTER: At the very end she said let's remember Flint still doesn't have clean water.

NICE: Yes.

STELTER: Talk about controversies.

HARLOW: I didn't hear it --

STELTER: Talk about scandal.

HARLOW: -- in real time when it happened.

STELTER: I think it was hard to even hear because people were reacting. But --

BERMAN: Chuck, Brian, great to have you with us.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys.

BERMAN: Two very funny people. Come here any time.

HARLOW: Thanks for leaving the dinner to watch our show, by the way.

STELTER: I do actually.

BERMAN: That's loyalty. That's loyalty.

STELTER: It was a great show.

HARLOW: There is no I in team, but there is one in midterms. The president seems to be very worried about his future and the impact of that November vote. Next.

BERMAN: This is a very subtle tease, but I like it.

HARLOW: I like it a lot. Did you write it?

BERMAN: No.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:50:02] BERMAN: All right, really interesting political pitch from the president over the weekend. Not tax cuts.

HARLOW: You could say that.

BERMAN: Not drain the swamp. No. You know, we need Republicans in office so I don't get impeached.

HARLOW: Protect me, the message from the president. Listen to what he told supporters at this rally in Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have to keep the House. Because if you listen to Maxine Waters -- right? She goes around saying we will impeach him. We will impeach him. But people said but he hasn't done anything wrong. That doesn't matter. We will impeach the president.

We got to win the House. And, you know what, we're going to win anyway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Let's talk about this with our Political Director, David Chalian.

So, David, what's the risk reward here. We were sort of stunned hearing this Saturday night that that is the tactic that he's using, you know, to tell people to get to the polls, vote for Republicans.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right? It is not quite the same message that House Republican leaders are sort of stressing to all their candidates.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

CHALIAN: To get out there on the trail and sell the tax reform plan. That wasn't quite what the president was going for with, guys. But I do think there is clearly a base play here. Right? I mean, this is a red meat crowd, he's at a rally. These are the people that would be most fired up at the notion of the Democrats trying to oust him from office and there are some Republicans I think raising the impeachment matter, puts the Democrats in a bind, which is clearly I think what President Trump is trying to do here.

BERMAN: And there are some Democrats, Maxine Waters, who have said they would like to see the president impeached.

HARLOW: Sure.

BERMAN: And there are others as well. However, it is not universal. How are Democratic strategists and leaders playing this issue right now, David?

CHALIAN: I mean, the leader of the Democrats in the House, John, Nancy Pelosi, is adamant, if you see her talk about this at all or what she says behind the scenes to candidates, says, we're not talking about that. That is not what we're campaigning on. That is not an issue for us to discuss. Let Bob Mueller finish his job and let the facts fall where they may. And then we'll see what happens.

But you are right, there is a palpable feeling inside the liberal base in the Democratic Party, especially now in primary season, where you do see some competitive Democratic primaries across the country and the base is pushing for as much Trump resistance and pushback as possible. The danger in that is that you are looking at a House map, guys, that is really a battle in large part for independents, for suburbanites who are not all just part of the base play, whether it is Donald Trump rallying up the base, keep me protected from impeachment, or Democratic candidate or Tom Steyer on the air with television ads saying let's impeach Donald Trump.

The vast playing field here for battle of control of the House is a bit more with folks in the middle and they're not necessarily wanting to be immersed in an impeachment drama.

HARLOW: David, "The New York Times" has interesting reporting that really brings you into the room at this dinner with the president, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with the White House Legislative Affairs director Marc Short, on them pleading with the president, warning the president about the danger of losing the House, losing the Senate in the midterms, and the president essentially saying, I don't buy it. What does that tell you?

CHALIAN: Well, it tells me that this political novice won the White House by sort of following his gut.

HARLOW: Right.

CHALIAN: And I think that you see that again here. He's less interested. He's been getting briefings for months now from Republican leaders about the history involved here, how precarious it is for a president, any president in their first midterm election two years into their presidency, more so for a president at historic low approval ratings, Donald Trump, of course, just goes with his gut on this stuff and so there is real hammering and palpable concern inside Republican circles that perhaps the president doesn't quite get how imperiled their majority may prove to be in November.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: David Chalian, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: Very shortly we're going to hear from President Trump, what will he say about the migrants camped out at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum in this country right now? We will bring you that news conference live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:58:40] HARLOW: All right, so in a few moments, closing arguments will begin in the AT&T-Time Warner trial. The merger trial. It's the last chance for both sides to make their case for why the companies should or should not be able to merge.

AT&T says the merger is vital to allow the company to compete in this changing marketplace. The government says well, it will hurt consumers, it will cost consumers more. The judge's decision could have a major impact on both companies and their customers. Of course, full disclosure Time Warner is the parent company of CNN.

BERMAN: So wireless company T-Mobile announcing its plan to merge with Sprint.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: In a $26 billion mega deal. T-Mobile and Sprint are the third and fourth largest mobile carriers in the U.S. Together they would have a combined 127 million customers positioning them as a big competitor to Verizon 8 and AT&T. They tried this before.

HARLOW: Like four times before.

BERMAN: And the deal must clear antitrust regulators before it can be finalized.

All right. It was a record-breaking weekend at the box office. "Avengers: Infinity War" took the top spot earning an estimated $630 million worldwide. A significant part of this was my family.

HARLOW: I was going to say.

BERMAN: My boys saw it twice, which is with wife.

HARLOW: Really?

BERMAN: And then once with me. They saw it with my wife on Saturday then felt bad that I didn't see it, so they came and saw it with me again on Sunday. So it is now a, you know, high grossing film. I will be tweeting spoilers for the rest of the day.

HARLOW: No surprise, John, I haven't seen a movie since the baby was born. Can you baby sit?

BERMAN: "Avengers" is right up your alley, I think.

HARLOW: Thank you for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.