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Caputo: Mueller Team "Very Focused On Russian Collusion"; Official: Trump Admin Confident North Korea Will Release Detainees; W.H. Legislative Director: Scott Pruitt Could Do A Better Job; Giuliani Matches Trump's Rhetoric on Russia Probe. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 3, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:01] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And what Giuliani -- another thing that Giuliani said, which is that the President fired Comey because Comey wouldn't say that Trump wasn't the target of the investigation. Here's how Sarah Sanders tried to explain that today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did James Comey was fired because he wouldn't tell others that the President wasn't a target of the Russia investigation?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, I don't know how many time --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rudy Giuliani said it. So was Rudy Giuliani right or was he wrong?

SANDERS: Once again I am not going to comment on ongoing litigation. There are plenty of comments out there --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that litigation? That's not litigation.


MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: I mean, to me this is just, more than anything, proof that Rudy Giuliani and Trump team- up is going to be a sloppy and very loud one. They're not going to be careful about this. And the more that Rudy is out there, the more he will say things about this.

If I can go back briefly to the other interview, I do think it's important that a Trump-sympathetic subject who spoke to the counsel said that this is focused and fair for Russian collusion. I do think that's important. And there maybe a reason that he is saying that on TV, which is the medium through which the President likes to get messages, and I think that may matter.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: You know, and it counters a lot of speculation from the President's allies that Special Counsel seem doesn't have anything on collusion. They're not looking at collusion that they're trying to sneak (INAUDIBLE) something like perjury or obstruction of justice in the back door. Here's Michael Caputo saying, no, that's not the case. The only thing he said that really struck me, the Senate and House he said are net fishing, Mueller is spearfishing. He knows what he is going for and he's deadly accurate about it. This is someone a season political pro who is clearly spooked sitting across that table by the gravity of this observation. I think he wants everyone to know about that.

BASH: And not very happy about the legal fees that he had to pay. But that's for another discussion.

Thank you all. We're going to take a quick break. And up next, potential progress ahead of that historic summit between the U.S. and North Korea. Why a U.S. official says the Trump administration is confident that the North Korean regime will soon release three American detainees. That's next.


[12:36:17] BASH: A U.S. official says the Trump administration is confident three Americans being held in North Korea will be released, now the timing is still unknown. On Wednesday the President tweeted this. He said, "As everyone is aware, the past administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean labor camp but to no avail. Stay tuned."

Two of the three detainees, by the way, were taken into custody last spring after President Trump took office. All of these comes as the White House prepares for that historic summit with Kim Jong-un.

Let's bring our Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny and CNN Military and Diplomatic Analyst retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. Thank you so much to both of us. Jeff, let me start with you. Rudy Giuliani, one of the things that he said this morning was that these three prisoners were going to be released today. Does he know something that we don't know? What are you hearing from your sources there about the timing of this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dana, that is the great question here. There is a sense that they do believe, U.S. officials do believe there will be a release. The ones we have been speaking to all morning long say they're not sure exactly when that will be.

But I can tell you, you know, the whole reason this is happening, of course, is because of those broader discussions under way between a summit with the U.S. President and the North Korean leader. But there is frustration here at the White House about why Rudy Giuliani, the President's outside lawyer who does not have a security clearance, is the one talking about this. You get the sense that he wanted to change the subject. You get the sense that Rudy Giuliani wanted to show the President has a lot of important work to do.

So, you know, the allegations about payment of Stormy Daniels and stuff are not the central focus, but on the sheer fact of when these -- a release is going to happen. Officials here at the State Department said they just simply haven't verified it, they don't know. And it is odd and unclear why people outside the government are talking about this much more than those inside the government, Dana.

BASH: Like the President's personal attorney. Thank you so much for that, Jeff. And Admiral Kirby, you were at the State Department, you were at the Pentagon as a spokesperson there. You understand as well as anyone, more than anyone, kind of, the way that North Koreans approach these things. Do you think, if they do end up releasing these detainees, what do you think it says about Kim Jong-un's mindset ahead of this historic summit?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.); CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It shows that he's serious about having an actual meeting, Dana. This is what we call a CBM, a confidence-building measure, and it's something that no doubt the administration was seeking to have from the north to prove that they were serious about it. Just like I'm sure it was a CBM that Kim Jong-un didn't launch missiles during our exercises with South Korea last month, and just like we didn't see any statements from North Korea about those exercises. All of those are CBMs to sort of build to the summit.

So I think it's serious that they want to meet. But I think two points are really important to make. One, it's a confidence building measure to get to the meeting. It doesn't mean that the meeting is going to will be successful. It doesn't mean that we should be confident that Kim Jong-un is going to denuclearize all of a sudden. It just means that they are taking the necessary steps to get to the summit.

Number two, and I want to foot stop on what Jeff said, it is highly inappropriate for the about the news of this release, if it is in fact true, to be coming from the President's personal lawyer instead of a spokesman or somebody in the government involved in these negotiations. Not only is it just plain wrong, it's probably -- it could be stupid, it could be self-defeating because you're getting ahead of Kim in a decision that maybe he hasn't actually made yet and you could be forcing an outcome that you don't want to see. So I just can't emphasize enough how foolish it was to come from Mr. Giuliani.

BASH: Admiral Kirby and Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much for your insight. Appreciate it.

[12:40:03] And coming up, a Republican senator starts getting flak for his views on tax reform and ends up blaming the intern. The most famous intern ever in Washington is now weighing in. You'll want to hear that, next.


BASH: Checking our political radar, more evidence that and why the people out in America are just over Congress. A new poll just out from Monmouth University shows that voters have a negative view of Congress and all four congressional leaders. The poll finds only 17 percent approve of the job Congress is doing. And overwhelming majority 71 percent disapprove. As John McCain likes to say, it's just family and stuff (ph).

[12:45:11] The poll six month before the midterm elections show Democrats have an eight-point lead over Republicans in the general or so-called generic House ballot if the election were held today.

Another top EPA official is leaving the agency. Liz Bowman, a communications staffer, becomes the third person to leave this week. This as embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faces nearly a dozen inquiries into his conduct. The probes are reviewing his travel expenses, personal security and other allegations of ethical concerns. Now a White House official is voicing concern saying Pruitt could be doing a better job using taxpayer money.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next week will Scott Pruitt still be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency?


I think that we campaigned on a promise to drain the swamp. We have to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. And I think that we take that promise seriously to the American people. I think that there are certain areas that the administrator would acknowledge were mistakes that he would want to fix. But --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could do a better job.

SHORT: Yes. I think he would acknowledge that.


BASH: Senator Marco Rubio is getting mocked by a Washington figure from the past. The Florida senator made waves with a less than glowing review of the new Republican tax law in an interview in "The Economist." He wrote afterwards in an op-ed to try to explain his position saying "The Economist" didn't print all his comments. Then Rubio tweeted, slamming POLITICO for accusing him of walking back his comments. He claimed an intern botched the story.

That prompted a quick response from the most famous Washington intern in history, Monica Lewinsky, who tweeted, "Blaming the intern is so 1990s." Lewinsky is now an anti-bullying advocate. That's so juicy.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's also just like not necessary to pick on an intern for being an intern. We've all been interns in D.C. at some point, so it's kind of, you know, interns stick together and of course she's the most famous one of them all, and so it just speaks of that -- yes.

KAPUR: Senator Rubio did set fire to one of his party's favorite talking points mentioning the corporate tax. He had no evidence whatsoever that the money has nothing to do with pouring back into the American worker, unquote. That's the message of many Republicans who want to run on.

Sorry, the opposite of that is the message of any Republicans want to run on. What is true about, you know, regarding, you know, saying he doubled down and maintained that, is that in the op-ed he wrote in the clarification of the partial walk back, he did maintain that the corporate tax cut is not, you know, the good thing about this bill. That's a --

HAM: And he also proposed making the corporate tax cut less and putting more of it to working families when the original debate was going on.

BASH: He did.


BASH: Well it seems like Marco Rubio also might getting in -- be getting in trouble for something like telling the truth and what he really feels. But we'll talk about that later.

And up next we're going to talk about what Michael brought up before. Rudy Giuliani, is he the Trump whisperer?


[12:52:30] BASH: Welcome back. Rudy Giuliani has been an ally of President Trump's since well before he ran for office. The former New York City mayor has gone from a campaign surrogate to a private supporter and now a highly visible member of Trump's legal team. And those years spent with President Trump have given Giuliani the gift that he used today, the gift to speak his language.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have a witch hunt against the President of the United States going on.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: This has become a witch hunt like the President said.

TRUMP: Our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff not the nonsense of collusion with Russia.

GIULIANI: This is a Justice Department completely out of control.

TRUMP: Fake news, fake news.

GIULIANI: Russian collusion is a total fake news.

TRUMP: Comey is a liar and a leaker.

GIULIANI: The leaker in chief.

TRUMP: With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office.

GIULIANI: I believe he's one of the best presidents we've ever had.


BASH: It's just so great. I mean, listening to Giuliani this morning, of course, you heard it, but the way that the I.P. team put that together, it's just so rich in how unbelievable Rudy Giuliani is at speaking Trump speak. He didn't speak like that when he was mayor.


BASH: I mean, he was candid and he was New York --

SHEAR: In so many ways, they're the same person, right? I mean, Rudy Giuliani is -- remember he is on the radio and do his mayor's radio show and have these free-willing and he knew how to use the media, manipulate the media. They both had issues with ex-wives, they both were on page 6 all the time. I mean, these -- And they both, you know, are bigger than life people. They're not, you know, receding into the shadows and it's the perfect -- I mean, if Donald Trump can't literally be his own communications director for the legal issues, then this is the next best thing.

BASH: And there's really -- it's about loyalty for the President, and Rudy Giuliani has been steadfast. He was one of the few people who went out there after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, and even though he didn't get a couple jobs that he wanted in the Trump administration, he has still been incredibly, incredibly supportive to the President.

HAM: Yes. The president clearly feels a kinship with him, and it's obvious. And part of it is that he's so comfortable in this type of language because Trump speak is a New York dialect and so he's learned it easily. I also say that no Trump whisperer is really good at actually whispering. That's not really what he's at.

[12:55:04] BASH: It's like how your grandparents whisper.

HAM: Yes.

KAPUR: Rush, outspoken, septuagenarian, New Yorkers with a unique talent for appealing to people's aid.

BASH: Except -- OK, so I mention loyalty and they have been very close. I just want to do a little flashback to when Wolf Blitzer interviewed Donald Trump back in 2007. Watch this.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It is Hillary Clinton versus Rudy Giuliani for president of United States --

TRUMP: Well, we won't get into that now.

BLITZER: Where does Donald Trump stand?

TRUMP: We won't get into that now, but I do have my opinions. And we'll worry about that later.


BASH: Times changed a bit. A lot.


KAPUR: They both seem to have lost their filter over the years. You know, Giuliani has not been in political office since 2001 when he left. And Trump obviously was not before, but you see his recent interviews like that one. And he did speak with a filter, they're both gone now.

BASH: Yes. Yes. I'm not sure how much of a filter Rudy Giuliani had. It was a New York sized filter.

Thank you all so much for being with me today, and thank you for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. John King is back here tomorrow. Be sure to subscribe to the INSIDE POLITICS podcasts on Apple iHeartRadio, TuneIn or Stitcher.

Jim Sciutto is in for Wolf Blitzer. He picks up right after the break.