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Mueller Questions for Trump Leaked; White House Walks Back Major Statement on Iran's Nuclear Program Status; White House Daily Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired May 1, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:31:13] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We are dissecting the myriad of questions Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask President Trump and what it all signifies, questions about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The list was leaked to and made public by the "New York Times."
To dissect all of this, Garrett Graff with me, CNN contributor and author of "The Threat Matrix, Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror," and Joe Moreno is back with us, a former prosecutor for the Department of Justice.
Garrett, let's kick thing off with you. Jim Sciutto and I ran through some of the questions. You've seen the list. Starting with questions about obstruction, what's your takeaway?
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: These questions are just starting points. In a normal interview, you would expect all these questions to be followed up, probably in an aggressive manner. They're effectively what you and I, Brooke, as outsiders in this investigation would probably have come up with if we sat down to ask about these and to sort of think about this. What we would imagine Mueller has is the answers to most of these questions and that over the course of the follow-ups he would go through documents, e-mail, testimony from other witnesses that would get much more specific and sort of zero in on the president's thinking in each of these cases.
BALDWIN: So these are the guideline questions. There would be follow-ups. There was also a response from the president this morning via Twitter you can't obstruct justice if there's no crime.
Joe, I'm assuming you disagree.
JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Brooke, so many of us wonder why the president doesn't put down the phone and stop tweeting. So many of his injuries are self-inflicted. That's not going to happen. He's going to take this list of question, regardless of who leaked it, and try to -- he's going to say there's no collusion because the word doesn't appear. I think we're not going to see the president just sit back and let the evidence play out. He is determined to drive the narrative and he's going to keep doing that. BALDWIN: Yes. And I don't think he's putting his phone down any time
But, Garrett, if you look at this, and if you think no crime was committed, if nobody nefarious has been done, then how do you explain the president's behavior?
GRAFF: Yes. And I think that is what is somewhat shocking when you look at the totality of these questions, is the extent to which, you know, when it's all in one long list, you realize just how many troubling questions there are about the president's behavior in his first year in office. You know, even before you get back into the campaign, even before you get into the transition, you know, there's a lot still unexplained that we don't know about why the president did what he did in response to this investigation. And as we were just talking about, one of the challenges in this is that it's clear in that this is one of the themes of this question throughout is it's the president's own actions and public statements that are likely going to cause him some of the biggest problems in this investigation as it continues. The president's own words are being used against him --
GRAFF: -- on a regular basis.
[14:35:01] BALDWIN: On the Trump campaign, whether it is the Trump Tower meeting or Jared Kushner's back-channel efforts, Joe, what do those sorts of questions from the Mueller team tell you?
MORENO: Well, they tell us that the idea of the special counsel looking into collusion is still very much a live issue, and that that's an area that he can probably prove with the evidence that's out there. He doesn't need the president to speak to him in order to decide if collusion was present or not. It shows that this investigation is still broad. It shows that it is still wide ranging and the idea that months ago we said collusion is off the table is absolutely not true. He is still looking into those areas. And in some regard, I think those are more troublesome than the potential obstruction avenue that this investigation is also going in.
BALDWIN: Just quickly also, we don't know who leaked these. We just know that they came to -- the Trump team was listening to and talking to the prosecutors, the Mueller team, taking all these different notes.
If the leak came from a Trump lawyer, Garrett, what do you think the underlying motivation would be?
GRAFF: There's an obvious motive here, which is that there a lot of people around the president who don't want him sitting down to talk to Bob Mueller, that they don't think he's going to be able to not get himself into a perjury trap in the course of speaking with Bob Mueller. Mike Smith, who wrote this story for "The New York Times," this morning in the daily podcast with the "New York Times" made a more specific and sort of intriguing theory. And, obviously, he is likely to know what the source is. (CROSSTALK)
GRAFF: He said he thought these leaks came from people concerned about the president's behavior and thought that the president was out of control. That's sort of an interesting lead of where these leaks might have come from.
BALDWIN: One possibility of several.
Garrett and Joe, thank you both so much on all those questions.
Ahead here on CNN, he says he didn't call the president an idiot, but reports indicate that the president's chief of staff, John Kelly, isn't exactly on great terms with his boss. We'll get into that.
Also, the relationship between the president and his chief of staff likely to be among the questioned asked of Sarah Sanders at the White House briefing set to begin moments from now. Live pictures inside the Brady Press Room.
Back in just a moment.
[14:41:42] BALDWIN: A one-letter mistake, one letter on an official White House statement has sparked all kind of question about official U.S. policy towards Iran. It was around 7:30 last evening, White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, who we'll hear from any moment now, sent out a statement to reporters declaring that newly unveiled Israeli intelligence proved, quote, "Iran has a robust clandestine nuclear weapons program." Has. This statement in direct odds with findings that Tehran has frozen its program after the Obama-era agreement to lift sanctions. Two hours later, a quiet correction changing "has" to "had."
With me now, David Chalian, CNN political director, Juliette Kayyem, CNN national security analyst, and Maeve Reston, CNN national political reporter.
David, the different between "has" and "had." Best case scenario, is that gross incompetence?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Some people would say what are you doing, nit-picking a typo on a press release? That's not the point. You're right, in the best-cast scenario, it's gross incompetence because either, A, you're not carefully checking something or, B, you don't know the actual policy assessment or intelligence assessment of what exists right now. At worst, you're playing with the facts on the ground as the international community understands them. To me, some folks will say you're being ridiculous, you're chalking this up to a typo. This matters. These are communications from the president, from the White House for the whole world to see. If it didn't matter, they wouldn't have corrected it.
BALDWIN: The White House truly wanted to bolster the Prime Minister Netanyahu's position, Netanyahu's position, saying that the information, quote, "adds new and compelling details about Iran's efforts." And he doubled down today saying Iran could still build nuclear bomb if they want. The critics say, much to do about nothing. And the global nuclear watch dog, the IAEA, says there's no evidence that Iran tried to build nuclear weapons after 2009.
Where's the truth?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The truth is the IAEA, which has been reviewing this setting on the ground since the deal was made, that Israel -- that was a political power point. That was to make a point that Netanyahu wanted to keep -- to urge the Americans and urge Trump to get out of the deal. Meanwhile, our allies, Germany in particular, but also France, as we saw last week, are urging us to stay in. So a typo is actually not a typo. I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to the White House because do I wonder whether they weren't politicizing the intelligence and got caught and changed it. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that it was a mistake. Even if it was a mistake, how careless are we? The world doesn't want careless. The world wants certainty from a great superpower like ours. Our troops don't want careless. Our intelligence who are doing covert actions to figure out what's going on in Iran don't want careless. I mean --
BALDWIN: It's about precision.
[14:44:55] KAYYEM: It's a lack of respect. I think it's a lack of respect of the hard work that not just us and our troops and intelligence agents and everyone else are doing and the international -- it's a lack of respect, which is a carelessness, which is unforgivable, assuming that it was careless.
BALDWIN: Maeve, I want you to weigh in. But we've got to get a commercial break in. I'm coming to you next.
The White House press briefing is set to begin.
More on the news today, the president's former long-time doctor said members of the Trump inner circle raided his office last year and took all of the president's medical records. New details from him, Dr. Harold Bornstein.
But first, former NBA star, Chris Herren, rebounded from drug addiction and now he's helping others beat it, too. He's the subject of this "Impact Your World."
CHRIS HERREN, FORMER NBA STAR: My story led me to the NBA and the Boston Celtics. But behind all of this was an addiction, heroin and Oxycontin.
Being a professional athlete and hiding this addiction was a full-time job. BALDWIN (voice-over): In 2008, Chris was found near death with a bag
of heroin. And old NBA friend and his wife pushed the fallen hoop star into rehab.
HERREN: Liz and Chris Mullen reached out to me and gave me the greatest gift, a chance to get well.
When I started the Herren Project, it was all about covering the spectrum, bringing in family support groups, recovery coaches, as well as helping them sustain treatment.
BALDWIN: A service which helped Susan Duffy get her son sober.
SUSAN DUFFY, SON WAS ADDICTED TO DRUGS: It really does increase the possibility of your loved one surviving.
HERREN: We all get sick in this process. Family members have broken hearts and people who are suffering have broken souls.
BALDWIN: That's why Herren offers free virtual support groups with licensed counselors, something that's helping James Francheck (ph). His daughter, Emma, died from an overdose in 2016.
JAMES FRANCHECK (ph), DAUGHTER DIED OF DRUG OVERDOSE: The support allowed me to get through it and not fall apart. It literally saved my life.
[14:51:34] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- had a chance to review those questions, digest them, and what does he think with the line of questioning?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As of all questions of this nature, I would refer you to the president's outside personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, can you tell us what the president's level of confidence is for Chief of Staff John Kelly and is he under serious consideration to be the next nominee for the Veterans Affairs Administration?
SANDERS: No, he's not being considered as the V.A. secretary. Both the president and the chief of staff are very happy with his position that he currently holds, which is chief of staff to the president at the White House. And I would refer you back to General Kelly's statement that he put out yesterday, specific to the comments, allegations about comments he made: "I spend more time with the president than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship. He always knows where I stand. And he and I both know this story is total B.S. I'm committed to the president, his agenda and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration's many successes."
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On Iran, you described the NSC last night, described it as a clerical error but it's a significant editing error that has policy implications. Can you state what the White House believes is the current state of Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon and if it's in full compliance with the Joint Conference Plan of Action as the IAEA as said it is?
SANDERS: We think the biggest mistake that was made was by the Obama administration by ever entering the deal in the first place. The typo that you reference was noticed, immediately corrected. We are focused on moving forward on the safety and security of our country.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER; But you assert what that says, that there is no current program in Iran and it's in compliance with the deal, as least as negotiated, right?
SANDERS: The problem is the deal was made on a completely false pretense. Iran lied on the front end. They were dishonest actors. So the deal that was made was made on things that weren't accurate. And we have a big problem with that, particularly --
SANDERS: Sure -- particularly the fact that Iran's nuclear capability were far more advanced and far further along than they ever indicated, which if this nuclear deal maintains as it is right now, when the sunset provision hits in seven years, they will be much further along in the process and able to make a nuclear weapon much quicker than they've ever indicated before. And that's a big problem.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER; Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to ask you about the reprieve that the E.U., Canada and Mexico are receiving, this 30- day reprieve for tariffs on imported steel and on aluminum. What will take place in the 30-day period and what are the chances of that exemption being made permanent for the E.U., Canada and Mexico?
SANDERS: We are extending those negotiations because we've seen some progress. I'm not going to get ahead of what that may look like, but we have 30 days to continue in those negotiations, and hopeful that we can get something that works for everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER; If I may, I wanted to ask you about something that took place last week involving the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. He, in court documents, asserted that he would assert his Fifth Amendment rights in the Stormy Daniels lawsuit filed against both him and the president. You may recall that in September of 2017 the president at a campaign rally said, "The mob takes the Fifth." And also said, "If you're innocent, why do you take the Fifth Amendment?" Do those comments apply to Michael Cohen? Does he stand by those comments?
[14:55:27] SANDERS: I can't speak for Michael Cohen. I refer you to him.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Sarah. On those 40 questions, the president said the leak was disgraceful. But a former assistant to Special Counsel Robert Mueller has suggested that the White House wrote these. Is he wrong?
SANDERS: Once again, I can't comment on anything regarding those questions. I refer you to the president's --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It was a question about specifically the White House being involved in it.
SANDERS: It was specific to the president, and that's why I'm referencing and referring you to the president's attorneys who can speak on that matter.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the White House concerned as Congressman Adam Schiff has said on many other questions point to obstruction of justice?
SANDERS: We here at the White House try never to be concerned with anything dealing with Adam Schiff.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'll point you back to what John started on with the tariffs. Wilbur Ross, the Commerce secretary, said if we're going to impose it, we're going to have to do it soon or people will start gaming the system. Does the White House agree with the Commerce secretary that you're going to have to move forward with this pretty soon?
SANDERS: It's a 30-day extension and we expect for those negotiations to be completed at the end of those 30 days.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will this be the last of the 30 days, then?
SANDERS: I'm not going to get ahead of the process but we're working on negotiating a deal during this 30-day time period and we'll keep you posted if there's anything.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If Ronny Jackson is no longer the doctor's personal doctor, why not? SANDERS: He's still an active-duty Navy doctor assigned to White
House. But upon his nomination to the Veterans Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs as the secretary, an acting doctor was put in his place and Dr. Connolly will remain there.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why is that? Why not bring him back in that role?
SANDERS: Again, Dr. Connolly had already assumed that role, but Dr. Jackson continues to be an active-duty Navy doctor assigned to the White House where there are a number of doctors that are part of the White House medical unit
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the president has any response to the defamation suit brought yesterday by Stormy Daniels?
SANDERS: I don't have anything for you on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER; A couple of questions for you. Why did Keith Schiller, who was a White House employee at the time, go and take medical records from the president's personal doctor last year.
SANDERS: As a standard operating procedure for a new president, the White House medical unit took possession of the president's medical records.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER; It was characterized as a raid. Is that your understanding of what happened? The doctor seemed to be pretty upset about it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: No, that is not my understanding.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER; Thank you. You talked about you don't want to get into this list of questions. The president has tweeted about it. He's talked about how none of these questions relate to collusion. But that's not true. Over a dozen of them do. We've talked about accuracy from the president in the past. Why is he mischaracterizing these reports?
SANDERS: Once again, I'm not going to get into the back and forth on matters involving the special counsel and I would refer you to --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's not a question involving the special counsel.
SANDERS: It certainly has implications with the special counsel and I'm not going to get into a back and forth on it. I'll refer you to the president's personal attorneys.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, just to follow to another question, there are some today who are essentially saying what has happened with the president's former personal doctor was a burglary the way Keith Schiller busted in and --
SANDERS: No some. I think there's one, not some.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's your response to that characterization?
SANDERS: Once again, that it would be standard procedure for the president, a newly collected president's medical records, to be in possession by the White House medical unit. And that's what was taking place is those records were being transferred over to the White House medical unit as requested.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, if I can ask a second question, there are some allies of the president's on Capitol Hill who are apparently drafting articles of impeachment for the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Is it the president's belief that the Rod Rosenstein has committed a high crime or a misdemeanor?
SANDERS: I'm not aware of any belief of that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the White House not endorse that drive, the White House calls on all these members not to pursue that?
SANDERS: I haven't seen the specific document, but we don't have any personnel announcements. And we're continuing to move forward with the Department of Justice.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, there are two questions. There are -- there are questions percolating about James Shaw Jr and the president. The president has -- has he called him? Is he planning on meeting with him? He's talking to heroes. He had the heroes of the Southwest flight in the Oval Office today. You said something about James Shaw Jr last week. But is the president himself going to reach out to him, to see Trump in the White House?
[15:00:12] SANDERS: My understanding is that there has been --