Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Rips "Rigged System," Threatens To "Get Involved"; Trump Speaks At The State Department During First Visit; Trump Claims Obstruction Of Justice Is A "Setup And Trap" Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 2, 2018 - 11:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- Rosenstein is right there with him --John and Poppy.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Abby Phillip at the White House. Thanks so much.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you all for being with us today. I'm Poppy Harlow.

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

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Any minute now we will hear from President Trump and by the looks of his Twitter feed this morning he could have a lot to say. We will bring that to you live as it's turning into a kind of choose your own adventure kind of morning.

The president is facing serious questions on multiple fronts, including could he face a subpoena. Sources tell CNN, Special Counsel Robert Mueller dropped the mic in a meeting with Trump's lawyer. Mueller is saying if the president refuses an interview, Mueller could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury.

And just minutes ago, another attack by the president on the Justice Department. Then there's the question, what is the president going to do about his doctor. The president's physician of 35 years, the apparent author of the infamous clean bill of health that Trump received during the campaign now says he didn't write that at all and accuses the White House of raiding his office.

Plus, then there's the question of what the president is going to do about the Iran deal. Any moment, President Trump will be at the State Department for the very first time and to swear in his new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the president's remarks will be parsed both here and abroad for any clues of whether he's in or out. We'll take you there.

Let's begin at the State Department. CNN's Michelle Kosinski is joining us now. So, Michelle, Mike Pompeo has said that he promises to bring the swagger back to the State Department. What does that look like? What are you going to hear today? MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And this is a mega swearing in, I mean, with President Trump on his way here now. We have a harpist down here playing "What A Wonderful World" as people arrive to this. Eleven cabinet officials are attending this.

In case you don't remember, none of this happened for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and this morning when I asked the White House what makes President Trump want to come here for this and having not done this for Tillerson, they will say only he just wanted to be there.

So, this tells you how much the White House loves Mike Pompeo right now. The president sees him as being in lockstep and sees him as a good ally. I've talked to people who have seen Trump and Pompeo interacting in the same space and one of them described Pompeo as masterful in the way he handles President Trump, the way he approaches him in a relaxed way.

He can talk with him easily. He doesn't suck up to him, and I think President Trump respects not only his point of view, but the way he treats the president. That's what people here at the State Department, they've been through a lot and we can say that the morale here is at an abysmally low point. It almost seems traumatic to many.

I mean, so many people have left the State Department. Some of them after spending decades here because they really didn't feel like it was going in the right direction. So, for those who are here, many of them feel relief like someone is coming in who wants to be forward leaning, dynamic, visible secretary of state.

He wants to bring the press in and he wants to make things work and deliver clear messages of what exactly the missions are and then execute them. That's exactly what people want because remember, these career people are not what some would say Obama-era holdovers.

Many people here have been through multiple administrations. They just want to make the place work again. I will say, though, that there are also plenty of State Department employees who worry that Mike Pompeo is a very political appointee. He has no foreign policy experience.

They worry about how much he's going to be just a "yes man" for President Trump's policies and they worry about serious things he said in the past about gay people and Muslims, some surprising statements that he did not back away from during his confirmation hearings.

So, of course, there is a big wait and see, what is this going to be like element to it, but we do know that not only publicly is he saying the right things about diplomacy, but behind the scenes he's doing the right things in listening to people -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Michelle, we're all standing by. The harpist is lulling me into sedation here as I listen to it behind you. We'll bring it to you live as the president is making remarks after the ceremonial swearing in of the new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. We'll bring that to you as soon as it begins. As we wait, joining me right now is Chris Cillizza, CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large, Elise Labott, CNN's global affairs correspondent, and Tony Blinken, CNN analyst and former deputy secretary of state under President Obama.

Don't let the harpist distract you! Let's get to it. Tony, Mike Pompeo has made very clear that he's a very different type of secretary of state than Rex Tillerson. What type of secretary of state do you see him being?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, Michelle is exactly right. Look, the department has been suffering from PTRD, post-traumatic Rex disorder.

[11:05:10] And Pompeo is I think putting exactly the right foot forward, at least in his first days, made a very quick trip right out of the box going first to Europe which is critical, and to NATO and then to the Middle East.

But then speaking to State Department employees just the other day and really giving him a quick pep talk and making it clear that the State Department is going to be back at the center of our foreign policy and he'll energize diplomacy. He's done everything right, initially.

The fact that the president is going to reinforce Pompeo today also speaks volumes. So, for folks in the State Department this is a big deal because it means that the State Department is back both internally and externally.

Internally, because its voice will be heard and listened to in the internal deliberations of the administration. Externally, because our foreign interlocutors can take it face value what Secretary Pompeo says is representative of the president. That wasn't the case with Secretary Tillerson.

So, this is good for the department. Now, the substance maybe another matter especially on the Iran deal, but at least symbolically and at least in terms of reenergizing the department, this is a good thing.

BOLDUAN: Well, I mean, you can probably say it, Mike Pompeo speaks to the president until he doesn't, seems to be how it is when it comes to every cabinet secretary. Chris, the fact that the president is making this his first trip to the State Department, what does that say?

CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, Tony is right. I don't think you can overestimate the extent to which Rex Tillerson struggled because it quickly became apparent that the power he thought he had, Donald Trump didn't think he had and then Donald Trump didn't see him as sort of the extension of his policies in other countries.

So, Tillerson was in the untenable position. Mike Pompeo was chosen for this job in no small part because of his loyalty to Donald Trump, and his ability as Michelle mentioned in the open, to manage Donald Trump effectively and figure out where you can push Donald Trump and where you can't. People say, well, that may not be a good thing because you just have a rubber stamp for Donald Trump, and I think that that is a concern on the policy front, but I will tell you from a political standpoint, having someone who leaders around the world understand is a close confidant and ally of the president is important.

You mentioned, Kate, the president is very mercurial. Ally today or enemy tomorrow or target of tweet tomorrow so who knows beyond today, but there is a clear attempt from the president being there and Michelle mentioned the cabinet members being there and what Trump has said about Pompeo is a clear attempt to say this is my guy and is going to be my guy going forward.

BOLDUAN: Elise, Mike Pompeo has said multiple times that he wants the State Department to get its swagger back. What does that mean?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, in effect that it will have a part in the policy process. Before you have Secretary Tillerson that was really not a voice. He was, in fact, against many of the president's policies and was very vocal about that.

So, he was sidelined in many ways and that, you know, in addition to that and all the unfilled positions the State Department lost its relevance and that's what he means by swagger. I will say as his first official act as secretary of state, we understand Secretary Pompeo lifted a hiring freeze on family members working for embassies overseas.

Now that seems like something very small, but these spouses that go overseas with diplomats serving in embassies and consulates do work for -- you know, have kind of odd jobs at the embassies. They serve important functions.

It's also a way for spouses to get overseas and feel useful and that was a very unpopular move when Secretary Tillerson froze that. Secretary Pompeo came in and said I'm unfreezing it and we'll get the State Department working again.

He has pledged to fill some of these positions and I understand that he did ask the president to come over. It was a joint decision between the president and Secretary Pompeo according to sources close to him to come here and show the president's support for the diplomatic corps.

And I think the fact that he now has his man, as Chris said, in the State Department will improve the president's respect for the State Department and that's what sources close to Secretary Pompeo hope and expect.

BOLDUAN: I want to continue to ask about all the vacancies. Months ago, Donald Trump said I'm the only one that matters. That still always rings in my head. Guys, stand by. Stick with me. We'll watch this and bring you this event with President Trump and the new secretary of state at the State Department when it happens. President Trump will be speaking, and we'll bring that to you live. When we also come back, Donald Trump not only avoiding the State Department. He's on Twitter. Takes to Twitter to attack the Justice Department blasting what he calls a rigged system and threatening to quote/unquote, "get involved." What does this mean legally? What does this mean politically? We'll get to it.



BOLDUAN: We are keeping an eye on the State Department right now. Over there we will be seeing very soon President Donald Trump with the swearing in of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and many other members of the cabinet joining in this big moment. Donald Trump will be speaking, and we'll bring that moment to you live with those remarks.

Look at his Twitter feed. Who knows what we could be hearing in just a few moments? But we're also focused on this, the new threat from the special counsel and the slapback from President Trump.

First, let's talk about the threat, sources tell CNN that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has floated the possibility of a subpoena for Trump if he doesn't answer questions voluntarily in the Russia probe. If that happened it could mean an epic showdown testing the very limits of presidential power.

Now to the president's slapback via Twitter, of course, President Trump repeating his hoax and witch hunt moniker to describe the Russia investigation and also calling the idea of obstruction of justice a setup and trap.

[11:15:10] The president also followed up by quoting a lawyer friend, claiming questions, we assume Mueller's questions are an intrusion of the president's constitutional powers and then he called the system rigged and he might have no choice, but to get involved on many issues, it seems.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House with more. Kaitlan, what are you hearing about the Trump team's plan when it comes to this possible subpoena?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Kate, there's a lot to unpack here. Essentially, they are preparing for the very real possibility that this could happen, but they are also making the gamble that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, won't go as far as to issue a subpoena for the president.

Of course, some legal observers say that if he does issue that subpoena that the president would be ordered to comply by the courts while others say that he could fight that subpoena all of the way up to the Supreme Court.

But this is all goes back to that main question of whether or not he will sit down with the special counsel face to face. Of course, if he doesn't, this could get ugly and this could lead up to this really big legal showdown essentially. And we know that the president was pretty eager to sit down with Robert Mueller, but now those chances seemed more and more slim. The closer and closer we get to this, of course. One thing that we should note is that the president's legal team is making the argument that they don't believe the special counsel has the authority to require the president to go before a grand jury.

But I would like to know one more thing, Kate. Over the few months we've seen the president's legal team tell his that this investigation is coming to an end, keep on moving the goal post there.

But now they're thinking that time is on their side here and that the president has actually done a good job of discrediting not only the investigators but also the investigation overall.

BOLDUAN: Can you also tell me, though, Kaitlan, going back to the president's Twitter feed, he just tweeted out another attack of the Justice Department. What is this one about?

COLLINS: This is the long-running feud between the House Freedom Caucus and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. They requested these documents from him and he's not complying fast enough, and the Department of Justice is not complying fast enough.

These are on several topics, not just one. One of those is related to the FISA warrant for Carter Page, the former Trump campaign aid, of course. The president just tweeted about this saying it was a rigged system.

He said they don't want to turn over documents to Congress. What are they afraid of? He said at some point, and this is the key line here, Kate, I will have no choice but to use the power --

BOLDUAN: I am interrupting you only for one person right now. President Donald Trump at the State Department for the swearing in of Mike Pompeo, the new secretary of state. Let's listen in.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I must say, that's more spirit than I've heard from the State Department in a long time, many years.


We can say many years; maybe many decades.

It's going to be a fantastic start, a fantastic day. And that spirit will only be magnified, only with this person right here. I know that for a fact.

TRUMP: So thank you all for being here.

It's great to be with you, the extraordinary men and women of the State Department. We are profoundly grateful for everything you do for our country. And you'll be doing things that you don't even know about.


Right now, they're not even a glimmer in your eye, but -- and we have a couple going, Mike, right now that a lot of people don't know about that are very, very encouraging.

I also want to thank Vice President Pence and the many members of my Cabinet for joining us this morning. We're here to celebrate the swearing in of America's new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.



This day is a testament to your exceptional skill, Mike; a skill and service that's been honed over a lifetime, no matter where you went.

TRUMP: We're joined by Mike's wife, Susan, and his son, Nick.

And I want to thank you both for sharing this wonderful moment with us all. Thank you very much. Thank you.


Mike is a true American patriot. He has devoted many years of his life to defending America, beginning when he entered West Point. And as you all heard, he entered at 18 and he ended up graduating first in his class.

You know, I heard that rumor a long time ago. I thought it was a rumor, but I don't know. You know, I hear first...


And I've heard it so many times. I've also heard I was first in my class at the Wharton School of Finance.



And sometimes when you hear it, you don't say anything, you just let it go. But I heard it with him.


And being first in your class at West Point, 'cause I know, that's a big deal.

So I said, "Is that true?" "Yeah." I asked a few other -- "Is that true?" "Yeah."

So I started bringing it up. I brought it up about four weeks ago. Right, David (ph)? And after that, everybody brings it up, so I don't have to say it anymore.


He was actually first in his class at West Point. And soon he was deployed to Germany, where he served a calvary (sic) officer prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

After leaving active duty service, Mike graduated from Harvard Law School with high honors. Great student. Mike was elected to Congress in 2010 by the people of the 4th District of a great state, Kansas. Right?


It is.

In the House, he distinguished himself as a member of the Intelligence Committee.

For the last 15 months, Mike served as our nation -- and served our nation as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, where I can tell you they have such respect for him, it's unbelievable.

They may be the only people that are not very happy right now. But they'll be happy.


They'll be happy with our Gina, who's here today.

And his exceptional leadership of the CIA earned the admiration of his colleagues in the Cabinet, the Congress, the intelligence community, as well as our foreign allies and partners.

Mike has also earned my deepest respect and admiration and trust. And you'll see why over the coming years; probably over the coming months.

I have absolute confidence that he will do an incredible job as the nation's 70th secretary of state.

As Mike travels the world, he will carry out the greatest mission and the highest duty of the State Department: to represent the interests of the American people.

This mission includes overseeing more than 13,000 Foreign Service officers who act as our representatives to the world, 12,000 consular officers, and administrator of -- of just an incredible immigration system; a system that we're going to be changing and fixing and making better, a system that's under siege right now, but a system that will in fact hopefully be the talk of the world by the time we finish.

You have 3,500 security personnel and thousands more diplomats, embassy staff, civil servants and administrative personnel, all of whom collectively play a vital role in advancing the safety, liberty, prosperity and all good things of the United States.

Very important people, great people.

As President Eisenhower said in 1953, make no mistake, the reason we have representatives around the world is to protect American interests.

TRUMP: For nearly 230 years, the men and women of the United States State Department have skillfully and proudly answered this call. And now, at this moment in time, I can think of no better person to lead these dedicated public servants than our new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

Secretary Pompeo, congratulations again. I have no doubt that you will make America proud as our nation's chief diplomat. You're an exceptional guy, a great friend and somebody that truly loves our country. We are really, really proud of you, I speak on behalf of everybody in this room and also on behalf of your family.

Thank you very much, Mike, and congratulations.



TRUMP: And now I'd like to ask Vice President Pence to administer the oath of office. Thank you.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Michael Pompeo do solemnly swear.

MICHAEL POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I, Michael Pompeo do solemnly swear.

PENCE: That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

POMPEO: That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

PENCE: Against all enemies foreign and domestic.

POMPEO: Against all enemies foreign and domestic.

PENCE: That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

POMPEO: That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

[11:25:11] PENCE: That I take this obligation freely.

POMPEO: That I take this obligation freely.

PENCE: Without any mental reservation.

POMPEO: Without any mental reservation.

PENCE: For purpose of evasion. POMPEO: For purpose of evasion.

PENCE: And that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties.

POMPEO: That I well and faithfully discharge the duties.

PENCE: Of the office upon which I am about to enter.

POMPEO: Of the office upon which I am about to enter.

PENCE: So help me God.

POMPEO: So help me God.

PENCE: Congratulations.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is -- this is truly humbling.

Thank you very much, Mr. President, for those kind words.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for being here today to honor me by swearing me in.

Thank you, Ambassador Lawler.

Ambassador Glendon, thank you so much for that invocation.

I used to work for her for $7.50 an hour.


It is a great honor to have so many distinguished guests here, including many of my fellow -- my fellow Cabinet secretaries, and former colleagues in Congress. Thank you for coming today.

I was also glad to see USAID Administrator Mark Green. I look forward to working with you.

I want to first thank -- thank God for this opportunity, and for the many blessings he has granted to me in my life. My wife, Susan, and my son, Nick, are two of the greatest of these. They are my number one fans, most days.


And -- and they have shown unyielding support to me throughout my confirmation process, and in every other stage in my public service career.

I love you both very, very much.


I want to thank John Sullivan, Deputy Secretary Sullivan. Where's -- where's John? Yeah, there.

POMPEO: John, thank you. Thank you for your service in this interim period.


Mr. President, I always want -- also want to say thank you to you. You -- you have entrusted me with a weighty and awesome responsibility to serve the American people, first as the director of the CIA and now as the secretary of state. This responsibility becomes more sobering when we consider the many threats to American security and prosperity and our liberty.

Mr. President, I promise you, my team and I will be unrelenting in confronting those threats. We will employ tough diplomacy, when necessary, to put the interests of the American people first. I will work to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights and defend their values. And I will make sure America's always a respected and principal leader on the world stage.


We are -- we are but 15 months into this administration, and we've already made outstanding progress. By speaking the truth about the challenges we face; by confronting them head on; by partnering with strong, sovereign, independent nations to make America and the world more prosperous and secure.

We've put a hurt on the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria. We've done so by a great diplomatic work.

We're confronting all types of Iranian hostility and are deciding on the next steps for the flawed JCPOA.

We've imposed real consequences on Russia for its acts of aggression.

And we will soon move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, years ahead of schedule.


We are bringing fairness and reciprocity to our economic relationship with China and protecting our intellectual property from them, as well.


And we saw in your meetings last week with President Macron and Chancellor Merkel, we continue to uphold and strengthen our time- honored alliances.

But there's one more thing: Right now we have an unprecedented opportunity to change the course of history on the Korean Peninsula.

I underscore the word opportunity. We're in the beginning stages of the work, and the outcome is certainly yet unknown. But one thing is certain: This administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past. Our eyes are wide open. It's time to solve this once and for all.


A bad deal is not an option. The American people are counting on us --