Return to Transcripts main page


Giuliani Ramps Up Offensive, Sparks More Questions; Giuliani: I'm "Focused On The Law More Than The Facts"; Conway: Trump Learned Of Hush Payment After The Fact; Giuliani Doesn't Rule Out Trump Taking Fifth; Another Trump Nomination Could Be In Jeopardy; Trump Urges West Virginia Voters To Reject Blankenship; Nunes: I'll Press To Hold Jeff Sessions In Contempt. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 7, 2018 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Attention White House shoppers, there is a Rudy Giuliani cleanup on aisle -- you know, it's basically the whole store at this point. Let's get to it.

The president's new attorney launches a new media blitz and appears to be trying to mop up the mess that was last week, missteps and contradictions all around. But the cleanup needs some more cleanup, it seems. In defending the president's reimbursement of Michael Cohen for paying off Stormy Daniels, Giuliani left open that there could be more payments to more women.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said he -- this was a regular arrangement he had with Michael Cohen. Did Michael Cohen make payments to other women for the president?

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I have no knowledge of that, but I would think if it was necessary, yes.


BOLDUAN: And in defending the president against the Russia investigation, Giuliani says the president can't be subpoenaed and if he sits down with Mueller could plead the Fifth.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you confident the president will not take the Fifth in this case?

GIULIANI: How could I ever be confident of that? When I'm facing a situation with the president, all the other lawyers are, in which every lawyer in America thinks he would be a fool to testify, I've got a client who wants to testify, please don't -- he said it yesterday. And, you know, Jay and I said to ourselves, my goodness, I hope we get a chance to tell him the risk that he's taking.


BOLDUAN: And like so much with President Trump, Candidate Trump has something to say about that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You see the mob takes -- if you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?


BOLDUAN: So, is Giuliani in hot water after another day of creating more questions than answers? You can be the judge. Here is what Rudy Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash. I will read it for you even though it is right over my shoulder.

"I have just been on board a couple of weeks, I haven't been able to read the 1.2 million documents, I am focused on the law more than the facts right now."

Dana Bash is joining me now. Dana, what is Rudy Giuliani saying here?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I knew you were good, Kate. I didn't know you had eyes in the back of your head. That was really impressive.

BOLDUAN: Comes with being a mother.

BASH: Yes, I get it. I get it. But in all seriousness, look, what he -- Rudy Giuliani, was trying to say when I spoke to him yesterday afternoon, after he met with the president privately at the president's golf resort in Virginia is he was trying to say he's trying to look at the big picture.

He's trying to sort of frame it both from a legal strategy and a public relations strategy in the big picture and that is where he sorts of came up with the line that he told me, which is he's focused on the law, not the facts.

But I think at the end of the day, the question, Kate, is whether any of that really matters and whether any of that, as you mentioned in your intro, really, is helping to clean up or making it worse.

He insisted that the president was in good spirits when the two of them met yesterday, that the president is happy with the direction of how things are going. And he said we have an agreed upon plan, it is flexible. It depends on how this special counsel acts.

BOLDUAN: Well, as part of that agreed upon plan, I mean, he also told you there was something of an agreement, Trump focuses on his job, Iran, North Korea, everything on his plate now, and Giuliani focuses on all of this.

But if you look at Donald Trump's Twitter feed this morning and just this morning, he's not holding up his end of the bargain. I think it was four tweets on Russia -- on the Russia investigation again. So now what?

BASH: Four lengthy tweets. Let me show you and our viewers what Rudy Giuliani said to me -- there you go, the four lengthy tweets. What Giuliani said to me yesterday was, that's been the agreement from the beginning.

He, the president, has a lot bigger things to focus on than this investigation coming to a head right now, whether it is Iran or North Korea, so, the president's concentration has to be on that.

The idea he was saying to me, the president trusts Giuliani, trusts his legal team, feels like things are going in the right direction, but the fact of the matter is the very next day, today, the president was very active on twitter trying to take matters into I his own hands on the very issue that Rudy Giuliani said he was going to try to stay away from.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. I mean, you also asked him about the fact that he was brought on to focus on the Russia probe. And now, I mean, it seems most of what he's talking about, though, is Stormy Daniels. Why can't he stop talking about that?

BASH: Well, he suggested to me that he was going to try to do that. He said -- when I asked him about the fact that he was brought on to deal with the Russia probe, and talking about Stormy Daniels, which is different, at least as far as we know, he said I thought that too. You know, we'll see.

He seems to -- he seemed to suggest he was going to try to refocus, but then again, on yesterday's Sunday morning tv, when he was on ABC, he sort of brought up semi-unsolicited that Michael Cohen might have paid off other women.

[11:05:06] And so, look this is -- this is something we have seen before, Kate. We have talked about with many different characters, in and around President Trump, which is he trusts them, he feels a sense of loyalty and kinship with them and probably no one fits that bill more than Rudy Giuliani.

He stuck with the president after "Access Hollywood," even though Rudy Giuliani didn't get any job in the administration and the president tends to sour when that person, despite the loyalty, becomes front and center, has the spotlight.

And so, we'll see if that's what these tweets were about this morning, maybe trying to put the mayor in his place. We don't know. It is a very complicated relationship and it is certainly something that I don't think we have seen the last word on.

BOLDUAN: I think that's maybe the only certainty in this. Great to see you, Dana, thank you so much.

All right, joining me to discuss, many of the issues we raised here, Anne Milgram, CNN legal analyst, former attorney general of New Jersey. Larry Noble is here, former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission. Great to see both of you. Larry, so he says it is not -- they say it is not -- Rudy Giuliani said this is not a campaign finance violation, there has been no wrongdoing, but he also says that he doesn't know when Donald Trump learned about the hush payment. Why is that such a critical question?

LARRY NOBLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is a critical question because if Donald Trump knew about the hush payments, anytime in the last year, and then he was making a campaign contribution, and the expenditure was a campaign expenditure.

The only chance they had for this not being campaign related in my view was if Michael Cohen made these expenditures out of his own pocket and never told the president about it and wasn't doing it in any way for the campaign.

But once he says Donald Trump knew about it who is a candidate, then it becomes a campaign expenditure and it was done -- it supports the idea that it was done for the campaign. I have to say the story doesn't make a lot of sense.

We still can't figure out what is going on. But it is also a good example of why Giuliani's statement he's focused on the law, not the facts, makes no sense because the law matters in the context of the facts.

So, if Trump knew about this, then you have a campaign finance violation. If this was done for the purpose of the campaign, you have a campaign finance violation. Nothing Giuliani said I think gets Trump out of trouble and creates more problems for him.

BOLDUAN: On a very basic level saying on live tv you don't care -- you don't care as much about -- to Dana Bash, you don't care about the facts. I think that's when you get yourself into trouble.

Regardless, on this issue, "New York Times" says that Rudy Giuliani, their sources are telling them that Donald Trump knew about the payment several months before he then denied it when he was on Air Force One with the gaggle of reporters. Kellyanne Conway explained it this way. Listen to this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: 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. A very fast-moving exchange between him and Catherine Lucy of the AP, I believe. He said he didn't know about it when the payment occurred, he found out about it after the fact.


KEILAR: Anne, do you see that? Does that make sense to you? He knew a payment was made, but didn't know when it occurred?

ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, there say lot, I think that doesn't make sense here. First of all, going back to Giuliani's comment about he's focused on the law, not the facts, that makes no sense. When you do a criminal case, you need to understand both the law and the facts.

So, let's just make sure that's clear up front. No lawyer, you can't -- you would be in a vacuum, wouldn't be able to make the right decision if you only focus on one. On this, what is shocking to me about this is that they keep changing stories. When did the president know, what did he know?

To Larry's point, Rudy Giuliani has just said that the payment was made in anticipation of the campaign because they didn't want it to be public before the campaign. Now they're saying whether Trump knew before or after, I mean, I think he's in a world of hurt because, one, he's been untruthful at some point in time, right?

All these things cannot be simultaneously true that he knew, and he didn't know so that's not truthful. And then the second point is, I don't think we still know what the truth is here. So, I mean, I hope we find out more about that.

I think to Larry's point that I think that there will be an election violation related to this. I would be surprised if there wasn't. And what election violation will depend a little bit on what the president knew when, but none of this makes sense.

BOLDUAN: Add this one to it, Larry. Giuliani said that the president can't be subpoenaed. Where are you on this? Is he on strong legal ground here?

NOBLE: I don't think he's on strong legal ground. I think the president can be subpoenaed. We do know the president can be subpoenaed for documents. We do know that the court has said the president is not above the law. In the past when president Clinton was subpoenaed, he made an agreement to appear.

I think the president can be subpoenaed. One thing he can also do, though, is take the Fifth Amendment. Now, as you pointed out in the earlier, Trump has said that anybody who takes the Fifth Amendment is -- suggests he's guilty.

[11:10:11] Personally, I think people have the right to take the Fifth Amendment. But I think he can be subpoenaed, I think he can take the fifth. I do think Giuliani is right about one thing. From what we know of Trump, I think any lawyer would recommend that he not testify.

That he is just going to get himself in a lot of trouble, he's not controllable, and he will just naturally contradict himself and say whatever he thinks he needs to say. And that's a very dangerous client to have.

But they're between a rock and a hard place now, if he decides either not to testify, not to abide by the subpoena or take the Fifth Amendment.

BOLDUAN: With all of this, Anne, all of the interviews that Rudy Giuliani is now doing and the contradictions he's presented, I mean, the fact of the matter is it is not a crime to lie to the press. How could all of these statements be used in a courtroom?

MILGRAM: It is true that it is not a crime to lie to the press. What is interesting, the president is tweeting at the same time. There are specific statements by the president that can be used.

We're also gaining insight into their strategic thinking and so individuals who are related to the campaign can be at some point potentially questioned and say, you know, this statement was made, you know, the president fired Jim Comey because of x, was that true.

What is your understanding of that? So, it is not a crime to lie to the press. It is certainly problematic I think for the American people, but it is definitely not a crime. And at the end of the day, I think that the president, there will be real questions about there are so many versions of events now, I mean, this is really unusual as well.

Often times you'll see two different versions of events like the government has a version, and the person who is being investigated has a version, and as a rule, they stick to that version. If it changes, it changes a little bit at the beginning.

It doesn't change here. It keeps changing and I think that's actually bad for the president, who is arguing there is nothing here. Well, if there is nothing here, why does the story keep changing?

BOLDUAN: Why are there not two versions, there is 75 versions of it. Anne, Larry, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, the next Dr. Ronny Jackson. That is what Donald Trump's pick for CIA director didn't want to be. What the White House did then to convince Gina Haspel to stay on and face her hearing coming up this week.

Plus, as Melania Trump prepares for a major announcement today on the causes that she's going to champion as first lady, a new report is out and reveals the separate life she and the president lead behind closed doors.



BOLDUAN: Here we go again, another Trump nominee for a key post could be in jeopardy. This time it would be CIA Director Gina Haspel. She is set to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee in just two days.

Sources tell CNN that Haspel offered to withdraw on Friday over concerns that she might not get confirmed because of her role in Bush era terror interrogations. If that happened, Haspel would be the latest inductee into Donald Trump's infamous dead nomination society.

More than 20 appointees in multiple departments who require Senate approval have failed so far. But that hasn't kept them out of government. Dr. Ronny Jackson, for one, failed VA chief, he's still in the White House Medical Unit. Matthew Peterson bailed on a federal judge post after he couldn't answer basic questions like these --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever argued a motion in state court?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever argued a motion in federal court?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When is the last time you read the federal rules of civil procedure?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The federal rules of civil procedure, I have -- in my current position I obviously don't need a stay as -- you know, invested in those on a day to day basis, but I try to keep up to speed.


BOLDUAN: But after that, Peterson is still with his post at the Federal Election Commission. Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino is another, up to be the nation's drug czar. He dropped out after it was revealed he helped guide legislation that weakened the DEA. Marino is still on Capitol Hill.

So, if Haspel withdraws or gets rejected, she could continue in her current spot, her post, as deputy CIA director. We shall see about that. First, let's figure out what is going on with her actual nomination.

Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon with much on this. Barbara, let me start with you. What are you hearing about Haspel from your post over there?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, there is a very significant difference between Gina Haspel and some of these other cases. There is no question in anybody's mind that we have seen that Gina Haspel is eminently qualified for the job. She has served in the intelligence community for several decades in many posts, some of them under cover.

Her qualifications are being applauded by both Republicans and Democrats, former CIA directors who are opposed to President Trump, her qualifications are not the issue per se. The issue at hand for Gina Haspel is her role during the George W. Bush administration.

In what was then an acceptable interrogation program, and enhanced interrogation, many people obviously referring to it as the torture program. It was accepted during those years. She ran a black site in Thailand where some of the practices were undertaken. So very controversial in the past. And the question is, is it going to be good enough to say it was acceptable then, but not now? Because, of course that program long gone since the Obama administration. That's the question that Gina Haspel is going to have to answer.

Would she reject torture in the future, even if President Trump ordered it, even if there was a suggestion of changing the law. That's going to be one of the key questions for her. And because of this uncertainty about all of this, sources are telling CNN that there is a Plan B in the works.

That they are looking at some other potential candidates if Haspel decides to withdraw her name or it appears she cannot get confirmed -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Just stand by for that. Kaitlan, let me go over to you now. Barbara, thank you so much. How is the White House responding to all of these reports?

[11:15:12] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Kate, President Trump just this morning offering a full-throated defense of Haspel writing on Twitter, that he believes Democrats don't want her to get confirmed because, quote, "She's been too tough on terrorists."

So, they're voicing a lot of support for her. Of course, we do know that she did offer to withdraw her nomination last week after all these questions about her ability to be -- to get confirmed came up.

And the White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short and the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders went to the CIA headquarters on Friday to convince her not to withdraw. But, of course, it does seem that they are going forward. There was concern that she would be another Dr. Ronny Jackson, but right now they seem to be moving full steam ahead with this confirmation process.

BOLDUAN: All right. Kaitlan, the president is also weighing in on the West Virginia Republican primary. Is the White House fearing that what is going on there could be another here we go again for them?

COLLINS: Well, that seems to be a great question for this White House. The president urging people to reject Don Blankenship in that West Virginia Senate primary tomorrow saying that there is no way he could win the general election.

Now, the president didn't cite the reasons that Don Blankenship has come under scrutiny. He was the leader -- he led this energy company that came under scrutiny because 29 miners were killed in a blast, also going after the transportation secretary, Elaine Chow's father calling him a, quote, "wealthy China person."

Those are not the reasons the president cited in this tweet this morning for why the people shouldn't vote him. He said it was because he would not be able to win the general election against Senator Joe Manchin later on this fall.

The president said, no way he could win and quote, "remember Alabama," of course, referring to the disastrous Senate race back in the fall in Alabama where the president had endorsed Roy Moore, the candidate accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls.

The president endorsed him in that race, of course, they lost, the president seems to be not wanting to make that mistake here in West Virginia by endorsing the candidate who has come under a lot of scrutiny -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Kaitlan, great to see you. Thank you. Barbara, thank you as well. Appreciate it.

Let me discuss this more with CNN's senior political reporter, Nia Malika Henderson. She's joining me right now. It's great to see you, Nia. So, let's talk about West Virginia. I mean, Trump won the state in 2016 by 40 plus points. So, what do you think Trump sees now that has him breaking from Blankenship? As Kaitlan points out, he's not laying it out.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, he's seeing some of the things that Kaitlan mentioned there. But he's also seeing a surge from Blankenship, all of the polls that Republicans have been looking at over these last couple of days shows that Blankenship might pull this race off tomorrow when voters go to the polls.

So, there you have Donald Trump weighing in, Republicans have wanted him to weigh in. The problem with him weighing in at this point is that he is basically telling voters in West Virginia to choose between two people, right?

So, you imagine that that might split the vote between Moore establishment Republicans there in West Virginia and a lot of that true Trump vote might go to Blankenship. He needs about 35 percent to win.

And it looks like he's in a very good position to actually do that, despite or maybe even because of all of this -- what might be considered bad publicity seems to be working in his favor in West Virginia.

BOLDUAN: It's not necessarily an endorsement, just an un-endorsement to somebody else. What does the president then do if Blankenship wins tomorrow?

HENDERSON: You know, the president said remember Alabama in his tweet. I think that is instructive, remember Alabama. The same thing happened, he endorsed Luther Strange in the primary, Luther Strange lost and then he endorsed Roy Moore. It is hard to imagine he stays betting against Blankenship in the general election if he can deliver that seat to Republicans. We'll have to see.

BOLDUAN: And just then add this tweet into the -- there is a tweet for everything, let's see what happens tomorrow. Great seeing you, thank you.

Coming up for us, Republican in Congress threatens to hold Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress. What does Devin Nunes want the attorney general to hand over and why won't Sessions give it to him? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 2 [11:28:37]

BOLDUAN: A new threat against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this time not coming from the White House oval office. Fellow Republican Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is laying out a stark warning that he will hold Sessions in contempt of Congress in an escalating battle over documents he wants to see about the Russia investigation. Listen.


REPRESENTATIVE DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE (via telephone): Two weeks ago, we sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 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 very important information that we need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what are you going to do?

NUNES: The only thing left we can do is move quick through hold the attorney general of the United States in contempt and that's what I'm going 2to press for this week.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Laura Jarrett joining me from the Justice Department. Laura, what exactly is Nunes looking for here and what is Justice saying about it?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Kate in many ways this is just the latest chapter in this ongoing saga between Nunes and the Justice Department over documents related to the Russia investigation, but here's why this matters.

In the past, when Nunes has pushed for documents, he usually ends up getting what he wants. Now, in this particular case, we know that he is after documents involving a specific individual who has gone unnamed at least publicly, it is classified.

But the Justice Department has been clear with him, telling him essentially, you're not going to get it, this could pose a risk to lives, sources and even an ongoing criminal investigation.