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CNN NEWSROOM

Giuliani: Stormy Daniels Payoff Was A "Nuisance Payment"; Conway: Trump Didn't Lie About Stormy Daniels' Hush Money; Giuliani: Cohen Could Have Paid Off Other Women; Giuliani: Mueller Interview Would Be A Perjury Trap For Trump; Nunes Threatens Move to Hold Sessions In Contempt; Sources: Trump Won't Be Invited to McCain's Funeral; Lava Fountains Destroying Homes in Hawaii; "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" Tonight At 9 E.T./P.T. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 6, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:18] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, President Trump's newest attorney, Rudy Giuliani, out this Sunday to clear the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I never thought $130,000 was a real payment, it was a nuisance payment. As far as I know, it was a longstanding agreement that Michael Cohen takes care of situations like this.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: So did Michael Cohen make payments to other women for the president?

GIULIANI: I have no knowledge of that, but I would think if it was necessary, yes. The Mueller part of the case --

STEPHANOPOULOS: And I want to get to that --

GIULIANI: -- that was gone. I think if you ask the prosecutors off the record, they would tell you that's gone.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If the president has done nothing wrong as you say again and again, and he tells the truth --

GIULIANI: He hasn't done anything wrong, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know. And if he tells the truth as you advise him to do, what is the danger in answering Robert Mueller's questions?

GIULIANI: Because they're trying to trap -- you can't -- you couldn't put a lawyer on this show who wants to keep his law license to tell you, you should testify.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you confident the president will not take the Fifth in this case.

GIULIANI: How can I ever be confident of that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did that interview just happened?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Trump's counselor trying to offer clarity and perhaps some distance too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I had limited visibility into what Mayor Giuliani is talking about because politely, he is the president's counsel, I am the president's counselor.

WHITFIELD: All this, hours after Stormy Daniels made her own forecast on SNL last night.

STORMY DANIELS: I know you don't believe in climate change but a storm is a-coming, baby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

Hello and thanks you for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

If the president's new attorney intended to make the rounds on the Sunday's talk shows to straighten things out, well, that might have backfired. There are even more questions now about what Giuliani called a nuisance payment to Stormy Daniels and possibly to others, quoting, if necessary. And him saying Trump might refuse to comply with a possible Mueller subpoena. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the president does deny any sexual relationship with Stormy Daniels?

GIULIANI: He has. I have not -- I'm not -- as I said, I'm not involved in that but the reality is he denies it. She denied it. Then when it was opportunistic, right before the election, she came forward and then of course the whole thing happened with Michael Cohen. And it's history now because it wasn't a campaign anything.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, let me just -- because you say it's history. When did the president first learn that Stormy Daniels wanted money to keep quiet about the relationship.

GIULIANI: Don't know and it doesn't matter to me. What matters to me are two things. There are two relevant legal things which is what my job is.

Number one, it was not a campaign contribution because it would have been done, anyway. This is the kind of thing that I've settled for celebrities and famous people. Every lawyer that does that kind of work has. And number two, even if it was considered a campaign contribution, it was entirely reimbursed out of personal funds, which I don't think we'll even get to because the first one is enough. So case closed for Donald Trump. And I think for Michael Cohen who I think got a big boost with Judge Ellis' comments the other day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But listen here -- and the other day you also told Buzzfeed, though that at some point after the 2016 election, Michael Cohen had complained to some people that he hadn't been paid by Donald Trump. And then -- so then you said Cohen met with Trump and told him, and Giuliani said that we'll cover your expenses. They work out this $35,000 a month retainer after that.

So the president did know about this after the campaign.

GIULIANI: Can't say that. I mean, at some point yes, but it could have been recently, it could have been a while back. Those are the facts that we're still working on and that, you know, may be in a little bit of a dispute. This is more rumor than it is anything else.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's what you said. You said that to Buzzfeed.

GIULIANI: But here's the -- well, yes. I mean, that's one of the possibilities and one of the rumors. The reality is --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You stated it as fact.

GIULIANI: Well, maybe I did, but right now I'm at the point where I'm learning, and I can only -- I can't prove that. I can just say it's rumor. I could prove it's rumor but I can't prove it's fact. Maybe we will prove it's fact.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said the president worked out a retainer agreement with Michael Cohen after the election, ordered to repay him for the settlement to Stormy Daniels.

GIULIANI: The second part of it and the last part of it, the retainer agreement was to repay expenses which turns out to have included this one to the woman you saw on Saturday Night Live last night trying to make more money. And now our NDA with her seems to be relevant because she wants to break it up because she wants to make a lot more money than $130,000.

I never thought a $130,000. I know this sounds funny to people there at home. I never thought a $130,000 was a real payment, it's a nuisance payment. When I settle this when it's a real possibility, it's a couple million dollars, not $130,000.

[15:05:00] STEPHANOPOULOS: You did call it a settlement payment, the president did make these payments to Michael Cohen over the course of 2017, according to you. Then why did on April 5th, why did the president deny any knowledge of the payment when, in fact, he made the payments?

GIULIANI: Well, I don't know when the president learned about it. He could have learned about it after or not connected the whole thing at that time. The reality is, those are not facts that worry me as a lawyer. Those don't amount to anything, what is said to the press. That's political.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you confident that Michael Cohen never told President Trump that I made this payment in order to keep you out of trouble with Stormy Daniels?

GIULIANI: Number one, why would I be, and why would I be concerned when it's not a campaign contribution. It was done for other purposes, in addition to possible campaign purposes, end of case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti is responding to Giuliani's whirlwind interview this morning. Listen to what he told CNN.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I want to ask you right away about the latest this morning from Rudy Giuliani on ABC News. Take a listen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said he -- this is a regular arrangement he had with Michael Cohen. So did Michael Cohen make payments to other women for the president?

GIULIANI: I don't have knowledge of that, but I would thing if it was necessary, yes.

TAPPER: What's your reaction to that? Do you have any indication there might be other women that we don't know about?

MICHAEL AVENATTI: ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Well, Jake, I think that when all the facts and the evidence come out, there's going to be evidence of payments to other women. I think that's going to be laid bare for the American people. But I have to tell you, this interview that Rudy Giuliani gave this morning is just the latest in a series of train wrecks for Rudy Giuliani and the president. They can't get their facts straight.

They can't get their facts straight. They keep changing every interview they give. The facts take on a new life of their own. And this is what happens when you lie and try to cover up. And this is exactly what happens.

TAPPER: Giuliani also said this morning that he expects that Trump fixer Michael Cohen will cooperate in the investigations, but investigators might be disappointed because Cohen doesn't have any incriminating information about President Trump. I imagine that you think he shouldn't be so sure about that.

AVENATTI: Well, no, I think he should be absolutely unsure about that. I don't think there's any question -- I've been saying this for a while -- that Michael Cohen is going to turn state's evidence on the president, and I'm confident there's going to be a lot of evidence and a lot of conduct that's going to come to light. I mean, the story, Jake, if we just concentrate on this $130,000 payment -- and I don't want to say story because now it's stories -- the stories that they are trying to peddle to the American people are forever changing over the last few months and even now the last 72 hours. Now, Rudy Giuliani is trying to claim that he really doesn't know the facts, isn't really up to speed as to the most basic facts

I mean, these are facts that you would find out as an attorney in the first 30 minutes of a meeting with a client. This is not that complicated of a situation.

Did the president know about the $130,000 payment? When did he know about it? Did he know about the agreement? Did he reimburse it and how did he reimburse it?

I mean, I don't understanding what's so complicated about this unless you're trying to hide things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Also today, the White House counselor Kellyanne Conway questioning the timeline of the Stormy Daniels payment more than a month after the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. No. What else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, let's bring in CNN White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez. So, Boris, Kellyanne Conway, she too was out there trying to make some clarification.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. And it's a position that several White House officials have found themselves in, trying to explain away the president's denials and then contradictions. Kellyanne echoing something said by Sarah Sanders earlier this week saying that she was trying to broadcast the best information that she had available.

She didn't dig too deeply into some of Rudy Giuliani's comments, essentially saying she was not privy to some of the president's legal issues, but she did specifically try to reframe that conversation that the president had on Air Force One when he was asked if he knew about that $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. She says the president was answering about when he knew that it took place, saying that he wasn't sure about the timing. That wasn't exactly what the president was asked, but here's more from Kellyanne Conway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONWAY: I would also tell you that I'm happy to answer these questions, but I have limited visibility into what Mayor Giuliani is talking about, because politely, he is the president's counsel is, I'm the president's counselor. I will tell you, though, in speaking with the president just yesterday, when the president said no on Air Force One, he was talking about he didn't know when the payment occurred. It's a very fast-moving exchange between him and Catherine Lucie of the A.P., I believe. And so he's saying he didn't know about it when the payment occurred, he found out about it after the fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:10:00] SANCHEZ: We have to point out, the president was also asked if he knew where Michael Cohen got the money to make that $130,000 payment on Air Force One, the president said, no. Just days ago on Twitter though, he acknowledged that he had reimbursed for certain expenditures that were made during the campaign, after had won the presidency. When asked if she believes that this White House had any issue with credibility with presenting accurate information to the American people consistently, Kellyanne Conway said no, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And -- but she did make reference to those tweets that came from the president which talked about and acknowledged monthly payments to Michael Cohen.

All right, Boris, Sanchez, thank you so much.

OK, so there's a lot to break down. There's a lot to keep up with. Let's try now with my panel, CNN legal analyst and defense attorney Shan Wu, and CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin. He also was Robert Mueller's special -- former special assistant at the Department of Justice.

All right, good to see you all. All right, so Shan, for days now, we have all been witness to Rudy Giuliani in his way to try to protect the president. But now we're also witnessing the White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, perhaps distanced herself, trying to protect herself. Is this a strategic move that you were seeing to make sure she's not caught up in this legal drama?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think so, Fredricka. I think what this is really revealing to us is that there is no cohesion on the Trump legal defense team. They don't have a strategy. Everybody is out for themselves at this point.

WHITFIELD: So Michael, it was a circling of the wagons to protect the president, but is this now strategy that some are taking on to protect themselves?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it could be, but, you know, fundamentally, I think what we saw in the Giuliani interview was, again, that Giuliani, you know, show that didn't help the president legally. If you look at what Giuliani said, he said that essentially the triggering event for this was the proximity to the campaign, and it had ancillary benefit to his family.

Well, under that theory, of course, the Federal Election Commission considers it a contribution that needs to be reported in consistent with federal election law. Similarly, he said that Michael Cohen advanced the money and that he was repaid back. Well, an advance equals a loan, and that has to be reported.

So, Giuliani said -- you know, he's halfway there to learning the facts somewhere in the course of that interview --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

ZELDIN: -- and my advice to him and the president and the president's legal team is that until he knows all of the facts, he probably shouldn't be appearing on T.V. because he's hurting the president's legal interests.

WHITFIELD: Right, and then -- yes, he made that very clear. You know, the facts we're working on. And he also, Michael, you know, talked about other potential payments if necessary. And so is a very important criteria, you know, when those payments were made? I mean, how do you avoid those payments to be construed with any kind of, you know, financial, you know, election, you know, contributions?

ZELDIN: Right. If a payment is made with the intent to influence the outcome of the election, it's covered by federal election law. If it's an advance, it's a loan. If it is a payment made to hush somebody, an NDA, with the purpose of it not impacting the election, then it's covered by the federal election law.

So if there are other people similarly situated to Stormy Daniels where the purpose of the payment was to impact the outcome of the election, then they too would find themselves in the exact same position as Stormy Daniels.

WHITFIELD: Shan?

WU: Yes. Following up on Michael's point there, I mean, I think when Mr. Giuliani says that in his experience this happens all the time with celebrities, he's missing a critical point, which is those celebrities aren't involved in the campaign at that point. So the timing here is everything. The paper trail is easy. It's a white collar case, they're going to know what payments were made, who they came from. But the timing and that intent is going to be everything here and he's completely ignoring that.

ZELDIN: That's right. And Fredricka, one thing to Shan's point is that, presumably the prosecutors ill obtain the tax records of Trump, Trump Organization and Cohen and see if these were reported. How they were reported because if they were taken as a business expense or if they were lifted as ordinary in come, it will impact the analysis on the front end as well.

WHITFIELD: And Michael, you have said earlier, you know, the facts we're working on that Giuliani would say that, and, you know, than any seasoned or experience lawyer would know that you got to have all the facts before you're going to start speaking.

[15:15:00] Then, if you were a member of this, you know, Trump legal team, what are you thinking when you see Giuliani get on the air and say the things he said today and over the course of the last few days?

ZELDIN: So the president has some very serious and well-accomplished lawyers on his team. He still has Ty Cobb, he now has Emmet Flood, he has Marty and Jane Raskin. He has Jay Sekulow who is experienced communication around these things. I think that should be the core team. I think Rudy Giuliani has shown in the few weeks that he's been on the case that he's more of a hindrance than a help. And that they would be advised to, you know, sort of slowly or maybe not so slowly, transition him out of the process.

WHITFIELD: And so Shan?

WU: Well, I would add to that that at this point, Giuliani is really doing a P.R. campaign, even though he seems like he'd have the background to be the legal heavyweight here, to pull the legal team together. He's not doing that. He's doing a P.R. and not a very good one at that. He's raising more problems than he is solving any.

WHITFIELD: Shan Wu, Michael Zeldin, stay with us. We got more.

The questions remain. Will the president meet with the special counsel in the Russia investigation? And why Rudy Giuliani believes it would be a, quote, perjury trap.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:20:33] WHITFIELD: All right, President Trump's new personal attorney Rudy Giuliani repeatedly attacked Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe today. Giuliani also questioned why he would allow the president to sit for an interview with Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mayor, if the president has done nothing wrong as you say again and again, and he tells the truth --

GIULIANI: He hasn't done anything wrong, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- I know -- and if he tells the truth as you would advise him to do, what is the danger in answering Robert Mueller's questions?

GIULIANI: Because they're trying to trap -- you can't -- couldn't put a lawyer on the show who wants to keep his law license to tell you, you should testify.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's only prosecutable situation if he doesn't tell the truth.

GIULIANI: No, it isn't. It's only prosecutable if they have some built-up, manipulated evidence to prove the president didn't tell the truth. How have often does that happen? STEPHANOPOULOS: If you have evidence to prove he doesn't tell the truth, then the president didn't tell the truth.

GIULIANI: No, people do things like lie. People lie. Could Comey be lying? You're damn right he could be lying, George. And we're going to walk ourselves into a trap like that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if Mr. Comey lied to the special counsel, then he's the one who's vulnerable to perjury. If the president tells the truth, he's not.

GIULIANI: But you got to prove that. And the special counsel has to be open to believing that. The special counsel so far seems to think that Comey is Moses, and I happen to think that Comey is Judas.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you believe the president is telling the truth. If you believe that, if you have that conviction, you're his attorney, why wouldn't you say, go in, talk to Robert Mueller, tell the truth?

GIULIANI: Because I wouldn't be an attorney if I did that, George. I'd be living in some kind of unreal fantasy world that everybody tells the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: My legal experts are back. Shan Wu and Michael Zeldin.

And so, Shan, what do you think about what Giuliani has to say that it's potentially a trap? He said, you know, they could have -- I'm quoting now -- built-up, manipulated evidence.

WU: Yes, it's a little bit hard to understand where Mr. Giuliani is going. Would that, certainly he's going to be under oath in that situation, not talking on Air Force One or on T.V. And he could be vulnerable to false statements or perjury. I think the bigger problem is that, it's just very difficult to prepare a client like President Trump to make sure he actually stays on message and stays focused.

WHITFIELD: And so, Michael, does Giuliani, by saying all that, come across as sounding like that the president is hiding something, and that he is likely or he -- there is more in jeopardy for him because he may not tell the truth?

ZELDIN: It's hard for me to figure out what they coherence of Giuliani's message was because it was incoherent to me. First, he started by saying that bringing the witness in would be imposing him to a perjury trap. Well, a perjury trap is a form of -- it's an illegal form of entrapment, in a sense. It's where the prosecutor is intent to bringing the witness in for the sole purpose of getting him to perjure himself and to not truly get him to answer questions about the underlying investigation.

I don't think we've seen any indication that Mueller wants to bring this witness in for the purpose of getting him to make a perjurous statement so that he can charge him with that perjury rather than speak to him about the underlying, you know, case because the 49 questions that were released and Giuliani said maybe released by a former attorney on our team, I don't know who he's talking about, but the reality is that those questions that were leaked do not speak to perjury trap, but rather speak to the underlying investigation.

So, Giuliani I think that the first -- the threshold matter is confusing the situation. If what he's saying is, I can't necessarily count on my client to be coherent and testify truthfully, well, that's something that they've got to figure out, and I think they have some good lawyers as I said, the Raskins, and Ty Cobb, and Emmet Flood who has to prepare him, and the president to be prepared so they can go in there, answer the questions, walk out of there with no charges against them.

WHITFIELD: Hmm. So Giuliani also says that, you know, Trump doesn't have to comply with any subpoena from the special counsel. A top Democrat disagrees. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Right, but what happens if Robert Mueller subpoenas the president? Will you comply?

[15:25:02] GIULIANI: Well, we don't have to. He's the president of the United States. We can assert the same privilege that the other presidents have. President Clinton negotiated a deal in which he didn't admit the effectiveness of the subpoena, he withdrew it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, but he did testify before the grand jury. Is the president willing to do that?

GIULIANI: But only for two and a half hours. Only with a -- an arranged format. Would we be willing to do that? I'd rather have the Hillary Clinton treatment.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: He's going to need to comply with the subpoena. If they take that case to court, they're going to lose. But look, I have to say I'm a little taken aback by this new lawyer, Giuliani's strategy here. His legal defense for the president seems to be a bit orthodox. He start out by saying, you can't believe the president of the United States. That's our defense.

So when he says things you just got to discount them. And more than that, trust me, this wasn't a violation of campaign laws. Neither that one of those things is pretty persuasive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, so then Shan, you know, back to the whole complying, pleading the Fifth, et cetera. Does the president just by virtue of being the president, simply not have to cooperate by testifying or responding to a subpoena?

WU: I think we have to distinguish, Fredricka, between the political and the legal here. And I think Giuliani is having a hard time distinguishing between that. So legally, there are arguments that can be made with regard to executive privilege, and certainly one can ultimately raise arguments about the Fifth Amendment. Politically that is really a very poor move to make. I mean, it would be suicide for any other president to invoke the Fifth or to refuse and take it all the way to Supreme Court to fight the privilege issue.

This president may not care about the political ramifications but I think that he's going to have to speak if they really want him to speak. And I think Bob Mueller is going to be respectful of the office of the presidency. He will be accommodating, he'll make some arrangements that are more palatable to the president's real legal team, but Mueller is going to want the answers. He's going to want him to talk.

WHITFIELD: Michael?

ZELDIN: Well, Giuliani was wrong again on a whole host of matters. First of all, I think as a legal proposition that past presidents who have tried to defy grand jury subpoenas have all lost. And so, I think this president well could be in that same situation.

Secondly, of course, in the Bill Clinton case where they did subpoena him and they ultimately negotiated an agreement, he testified for four hours in the map room with his lawyers present, and the transmission of that testimony went straight to the grand jury. As for Hillary Clinton, when she was under investigation in the Whitewater case by Special Counsel Starr, she was called into the grand jury, and went up to the steps of that courthouse and testify in the grand jury.

So, I don't know what exactly he's talking about as a matter of law and fact, but the reality is that they have some arguments they can make at the president -- after Donald Trump became the president about his feelings about things, his intent about things, that they maybe have some room to wiggle there. But anything that predates his time in office is surely going to be covered by the grand jury's right to hear his evidence.

So again, I think Giuliani is making this --

WHITFIELD: The executive privilege, in other words, does not cover that, you're saying.

ZELDIN: Exactly. Does not cover it until I believe he has been inaugurated. So there's some room to negotiate. I think if Rudy Giuliani got out of the way, the other lawyers might be able to reach an accommodation. And that would be fair to both sides, and where the evidence will be heard. And Bob Mueller can then move along with his investigation.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it's all becoming even more confusing because it's difficult to figure out whether what we're hearing from Giuliani it means that he or others are afraid that his client won't tell the truth or they're afraid the truth is really bad.

WU: Right.

ZELDIN: That's right.

WHITFIELD: And that's where we are.

All right, Shan Wu, Michael Zeldin, thank you so much.

WU: Thank you.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes lashing out at the U.S. Justice Department. Why the chairman of the House Intel Committee is threatening to hold the U.S. attorney general in contempt, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:33:45] WHITFIELD: Congressman Devin Nunes is lashing out against the Justice Department. The Republican chairman of the House Intel Committee says he's moving to hold U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress for withholding documents in his panel's probe of government surveillance.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Two weeks ago we sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a classified letter. Per usual, it was ignored, not acknowledged, just completely ignored. So last week we sent a subpoena. And then on Thursday we discovered that they are not going to comply with our subpoena --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what are you going to do about it?

NUNES: -- on some very important information that we need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you going to do?

NUNES: The only thing left that we can do is we have to move quickly to hold the attorney general of the United States in contempt, and that's what I'm going to press for this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, joining us right now is CNN Justice Reporter Laura Jarrett. So Laura, do we know what's in these documents and what they're being withheld?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Fred, this is really just the latest chapter in an ongoing battle between Chairman Devin Nunes and the Justice Department over sensitive materials related to the Russia investigation. But this is interesting for two reasons. The first is that, I obtained a letter that shows that the Justice Department told Chairman Nunes on Thursday that it was not going to be able to fill this request because these documents actually could risk national security.

[15:35:10] Now the head of legislative affairs for the Justice Department told Chairman Nunes that the request could actually pose a risk to human lives, pose a risk to sources and an ongoing investigation.

But this is also interesting because he's lashing out at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but as he knows, the attorney general is actually recused from the Russia investigation. Most of his dealings have been with the FBI Director Chris Wray as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. So it's unclear what the play is here on Sessions.

WHITFIELD: And then, there's some more precedence here because CNN has reported that Nunes has demanded Justice Department records before but then, not even read them. So, what's really -- what's this all about, really?

JARRETT: Yes, it's something of a curious pattern that based on our reporting shows that he continually demands documents always related to the Russia investigation, largely classified. The Justice Department eventually capitulates, relents and turns them over. And then he does not read them according to multiple sources Manu Raju and I and Jeremy Herb reported on Friday that this is how the situation has played out again and again.

Now, his supporters say that Congressman Gowdy and his staff have maintained a good grasp on all of these documents. They have read all of them. But Chairman Nunes, the critics point out, that for the amount that he has demanded and how sensitive they are, you would think that he would want to read them himself.

WHITFIELD: Or perhaps that they hand them off to the White House. The White House would not have access to some of this material.

JARRETT: Well, that's true. And we don't have any reporting to suggest that he's sharing them in any improper way. But you do -- you see how the fact that the Justice Department has continued to turned over materials after materials, document after document that it initially says that it doesn't want to because of national security, because of these grave risks.

It's clear that the Justice Department hasn't had the support of both House leadership Paul Ryan and the White House, who has, you know, declined to exert executive privilege again and again. That's the result of the so-called Nunes memo. All of that is a result of both leadership in the White House not having the Justice Department's back in these instances, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Laura Jarrett, thank you so much. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:42:07] WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

Senator John McCain expressing concerns over the state of the country. The New York Times says McCain relayed his worries over the direction of the country to former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden recently went to Arizona to visit McCain who has been battling brain cancer. Additionally, McCain talked about how the U.S. reputation is being damaged internationally. Meantime, sources are telling CNN McCain does not want President Trump at his funeral. But former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been asked to deliver eulogies.

Joining me right now to talk it all over is Dave Jacobson, he is a CNN political commentator and a Democratic strategist, and John Thomas, a CNN political commentator and Republican Party adviser. Good to see you both.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: All right, so John, you know it is a very tender, you know, topic, but John McCain is also exhibiting -- you know, he is coming face to face with this terminal illness and reportedly talking about his funeral wishes. What's your reaction to how he is reaching, you know, on both sides of the aisle about how a Democratic president, how a Republican former president both would be among those to eulogize him.

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's -- look, anybody has the right to have whoever they want or don't want at their funeral, so of course I respect the senator's wishes. But, you know, in his last wishes, it's interesting the stage craft that he's chosen a bipartisanship.

But, you know, your earlier point, Fredricka about McCain's concern about the direction of the country and the respect in the world, I mean, the fact of what's going on in North Korea with Trump arranging a sit-down of potential peace, I think this really gets down to a longstanding feud and quite frankly bitterness by the senator that somebody with Trump's personality could have gotten elected president when John McCain tried twice and was snubbed both times.

WHITFIELD: Huh! So Dave, do you see a tinge of bitterness here as an underlying, you know, characteristic in this kinds of plans?

JACOBSON: Not at all. Look, the fact of the matter is, this is a testament to the fact that John McCain is a true patriot. I may fundamentally disagree with him on public policy, domestic and international policy, but this man is a war hero. He risked his life for our country, served in the Vietnam War while Donald Trump, president bone spurs, decided to defer and not participate and go to war.

John McCain was tortured, had his ribs broken, arms broken. And the fact that he has President Obama coming to speak at his funeral, someone who he campaigned against in 2008, and then George W. Bush, who he campaigned against in 2000 during the presidential election, I think underscores the fact that he puts country first beyond party.

[15:45:04] WHITFIELD: And then John, you know, might that also be an incredible example of what he is hoping for the country, particularly as you see, you know, this kind of consternation on Capitol hill of parties not being able to -- you know, people not being able to see eye to eye because of party lines --

THOMAS: Yes. WHITFIELD: -- and that he is trying to be philosophical particularly and with a very graceful exit.

THOMAS: No, it is, and I applaud the bipartisanship. I think that's great. I just think that it smacks to me, though, of a little bit of politician because you're trying to project this era of bipartisanship. But at the same time when he runs for reelect, you know, he's the most partisan build that wall Trump rhetoric you've ever seen.

It's just -- to me, the problem is, it is a revisionist of history. And look, if that's how he wants be remembered, that's great, I think it's a nice signal to send out, but it has had been his career, Fredricka, he's been known to have one of the hottest head tempers of all senators.

I mean, it's just not the truth. But again, if this is how he wants to be remembered, kudos to him.

JACOBSON: Well, Fred, if I could just jump in real quick. I mean, John McCain was a hard liner when it comes to international policy, of course, but he's also been someone who's known throughout the course of his career in The senate to be friends with Democrats. That's why Joe Biden visited with him, of course, just last week. And he was known to have been friends with Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion of the United States Senate.

So, perhaps he may disagree fundamentally on public policy, this is someone who relationship wise, understand the importance the importance of working across party lines to get things done. And I go back to my other point, when he -- when I say country first, that was John McCain's tag line back in the 2008 presidential election. So perhaps he may dig his heels in on public policy, but he understands fundamentally that we're all Americans and it's in the best interests of our country and the broader world when we have common sense and levelheadedness in our politics, unlike what we're seeing today from the White House.

WHITFIELD: Yes, I mean, it underscores how you -- you to see the legacy of a John McCain so differently. And even now, as John McCain is, you know, about to release a book, I mean, his -- the audio excerpts of his book are very powerful, and at the same time he's simultaneously, you know, making plans for the inevitability, making plans for, you know, his funeral.

And then just yesterday, you know, John, we heard the president while he was in Cleveland make reference to John McCain. He didn't use his name but he talked about the one vote, the one vote on his efforts to, you know, repeal and replace ObamaCare. And, you know, one has to wonder how appropriate that was for a sitting president to do while the maverick, John McCain, is fighting this terminal illness.

THOMAS: It's definitely a delicate line to walk, but I think the president feels that if John McCain is going to throw elbows on his way out both to President Trump personally but also casting these votes on things like ObamaCare that the country universally in the midterms kind of voted against and to be the no vote on that and block the president's agenda is pretty tough to deal with.

WHITFIELD: All right, John Thomas, Dave Jacobson, we'll leave it there.

THOMAS: Thanks.

JACOBSON: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much.

Coming up, fountains of lava shooting hundreds of feet in the air destroying homes on the big island in Hawaii. We'll take you there live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:51:52] WHITFIELD: All right, take a look at molten rock spewing into a subdivision in Hawaii as the big island's most active volcano erupts. Residents have been evacuated and nine homes now have been destroyed.

Stephanie Elam joins us now from Pahoa, Hawaii. Still on the big island and you were standing on the remnants of what was a rather significant eruption back in 2014?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And just to give you an update, Fred, on what they're dealing with right now in those areas of Leilani Estates. They say there now that they have nine fissures that have opened up, nine of these open and these vents that are spewing lava forth and really threatening homes in that area. Now, as you said, we know that nine homes have been destroyed, and also, you're looking at some of these lava uncontrollably flowing. If you take a look at a picture of what's happening now, you can see in some places, the lava has just cascaded over the street, to show you what happens after that exists, after that happens to these communities.

Take a look at where I'm standing because you can see here that we are standing out of this flow here from 2014, and you can see how the lava just oozed its way down and around. There's nothing to stop this, there's not implement to put in front of molten hot lava as it is oozing forth across the earth. There's nothing you can do.

And so because of that, they were watching this lava in concern that it would jeopardize their new recycling facility here near Hilo here in Pahoa. And as you can see here, take a look at this fence right here, you can see how the lava came down, cascading down through it. And then this area here, still leaning up against it.

Think about it, this is four years ago, Fred, four years ago and it's still like this. There's no way to remove it down, to break it down. And I wish I could show, it doesn't translate on T.V. but the tops of those lava areas, the -- it's iridescent, almost, with the colors that are swirling in the top of the lava. But it is extremely and there's no way to just really move it and get rid of it, and so they just leave it here. And that is why it's such a concern that if this were to happen in these neighborhoods where these people are living along those eastern rift, if you take a look at it, this is what happens. And it can just totally destroy a home, take it away and you would not be able to come back and reclaim that land and build it. It's just an idea of what it looks like after you see a flow and you can see the ridges of the oozing as it slowly is coming down and taking over. And sometimes it's not that slow but still progressing very fast and leaving these ridges there for good.

WHITFIELD: It's unbelievable, what a sight. All right, Stephanie Elam, with incredible lasting effects there on the big island. Appreciate it.

We get so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this short break. But first, in an all new episode of "Parts Unknown", Anthony Bourdain travels off the beaten path in Uruguay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN" HOST: So from the first time I came down here years ago, looking for a sort of disgraceful, possibly gun running relative, I felt in love with this place.

[15:55:04] You need to be out of your mind to not love this place.

Yes, a little bit that remind me of other countries but it's is its own (INAUDIBLE) thing. It is definitely something, it is definitely unlike any other place I've been.

Underpopulated, it's incredibly beautiful. It's really a true hidden gem in Latin America.

A place called Uruguay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, to see more, tune in to "Parts Unknown" tonight, 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.