Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Tells West Virginia Voters to Reject Don Blankenship; Kilauea Volcano Wreaking Havoc in Hawaii; John McCain Shares Hopes and Regrets with His Friends; Rudy Giuliani Slams Stormy Daniels Appearance on "SNL." Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 7, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Look, you're going to leave the state in the hands of Joe Manchin, the Democrat there, we can't win if you elect Blankenship. This is also a president who supported Roy Moore until the bitter end. So is this a lesson learned?

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Maybe, Poppy. But it's called a lesson in politics. This is politics 101. And, you know, the fact of the matter is that the president is trying to get the candidate that he believes could probably do better in the general, but, you know that remains to be seen, the voters of West Virginia, excuse me, West Virginia will certainly have the final say. But this is politics 101.

HARLOW: What do you think, Lanhee? I mean, over the last six days of the race, you had Don Blankenship, because he's so wealthy, really outspend his rivals, spending $2.5 million on ads so far, much more than the other two combined. Some Republican strategists are saying that the other two Republican nominees for West Virginia Senate attacking each other really help propel Blankenship to the position he's in now.

What does it mean for your party if he wins the nomination?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER PUBLIC POLICY DIRECTOR TO MITT ROMNEY: Well, I think that dynamic, Poppy, is very problematic. It's not just in West Virginia, we're seeing it also in a few other states. But, look, Blankenship, there is no -- he has no business being in the U.S. Senate. I'm glad the president did this because, let's be honest, the president's word carries a lot of weight in West Virginia. He's somebody whose approval rating is quite high in West Virginia amongst not just Republican voters but voters generally.

And so him coming out against Blankenship is very impactful. If Blankenship were to be the nominee, this would be a huge problem for Republicans. This would be akin to very similar sort of situations we've seen in other states including Alabama. So I hope he is not successful tomorrow. And I'm glad the president did weigh in.

HARLOW: All right. So you applaud the president's actions on that front. I wonder what you think about the president keeping Rudy Giuliani on his legal team and so close to him, because, again, this weekend, Lanhee, you know, on the Sunday morning talk shows, Giuliani threw bombs. I mean, he said the president may plead the Fifth and he also talked about potential other payments, potentially to other women when answering this question. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I have no knowledge of that. But I would think if it was necessary, yes. He made payments for the president. He conducted business for the president, which means he had legal fees, monies laid out and expenditures, which I have on my bills to my client.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Lanhee, is the president wise to keep Giuliani on his team and to keep him so close?

CHEN: You know, it seems to me that the problem here is that Rudy Giuliani is out there throwing out a bunch of theories. And this is not a political issue. This becomes a legal question. Is Rudy Giuliani putting the president in a more difficult legal position by throwing things out there, like, hey, there might be other payments, or hey, he might plead the Fifth. These are the sorts of things, if I were the president, the president's team, I would not want this around me.

HARLOW: Right.

CHEN: So this is the big problem with Rudy Giuliani right now.

HARLOW: But, Nina, do you think -- as a former politician, do you think there is maybe a political strategy here that is muddy the water enough so the American people have no idea what on earth to think?

TURNER: Well, that's something the president has been good at from the beginning. One thing that we know that we can expect from this White House and from this administration is lies, lies, rumors or lies and more lies to come. That's how he rolls. And so Mayor Giuliani is just simply doing what President Trump is asking him to do. So you make a very good point about muddying the water, whenever the president's lips are moving for the most part, we should expect lies to come from them unless proven otherwise.

And Poppy, you made a very good point about, you know, the Blankenship in terms of the money being spent.

HARLOW: Right.

TURNER: One thing we really do need in this country is campaign finance reform because folks should not be able to buy office. In China people and then mention of negroes, black folks have not been called negroes for centuries so Blankenship shouldn't be there for many reasons.

HARLOW: Yes. The language is stunning and deeply offensive. To both of you --

TURNER: Yes.

HARLOW: Giuliani told Bob Costa of "The Washington Post," he said, "We're setting the agenda. Everyone is reacting to us right now and I feel good about that because that's what I came in to do."

So Giuliani thinks he's succeeding, Lanhee, by setting the agenda here, getting people talking about this, this being the lead. Is he right?

CHEN: Look, I'm not so sure that this is the agenda item that the president or Republicans quite frankly want to be talking about. I think they'd much rather be talking about the potential peace talks in North Korea, they'd much rather be talking about the economy. They do not want to be talking about Rudy Giuliani's new fangled legal theories. So I -- in my mind, setting the agenda in this way is not quite the right approach.

HARLOW: Ten seconds left, Nina?

TURNER: I mean, listen, the president knew what he was getting when he hired Mr. Giuliani. So this is how this president likes to roll. This is politics as usual for this White House.

[10:35:05] HARLOW: Nina Turner, Lanhee Chen, appreciate you both being here. Thank you very much.

All right. Now to Hawaii, where lava is continuing to spew out of this active volcano. Dozens of homes reduced to ashes. Some 1,800 people forced to evacuate and now volcanic eruption that is posing a new threat to residents on the big island.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: At least two dozen homes are destroyed as lava continues to gush from Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano this morning. That's not the only threat facing residents on the big island. There is growing concern over the release of toxic gas and earthquakes. On Friday, a magnitude 6.9 quake rattled the region. Hawaii's most intense in four decades.

Stephanie Elam reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The eruption seemed incessant. A cluster of fissures spewing molten rock and devouring all that's in its path, including more than two dozen structures.

[10:40:08] From a helicopter, we can see the destruction is dynamic. At the head of the churning lava, a curtain of fiery red, visible through a veil of smoke and volcanic gas.

Earlier in the day, this molten march glowed brightly in the predawn light. Now it's clear more buildings, likely homes are lost. (On camera): That right there is devastation. You can see it looks

like at least three structures that are on fire there where the lava has flowed deep around basically -- like oozing around on multiple sides of those buildings.

(Voice-over): These volcanic vents continue to ravage the community of Leilani Estates, opening unpredictably along the lower east rift zone of the Kilauea Volcano.

(On camera): There is the circular house where you can see where the lava first broke out. You can see that it's still smoldering, surrounded by the dead trees that were burned there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fissures are actually breaking open over the rift zone right now. And so pretty much every morning (INAUDIBLE).

ELAM (voice-over): The destruction snakes across the landscape in waves of black. We head about 15 miles to the source. All of this began when to the southwest the pool of vent of Kilauea collapsed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That used to be almost quite (INAUDIBLE). It all collapsed into one big hole.

ELAM (on camera): It collapsed up here. All of that lava all around (ph) and now there's (INAUDIBLE), an outbreak (ph).

(Voice-over): An outbreak that continues to threaten thousands of Hawaiians with eruptions, earthquakes and toxic emissions. But while scientists know what is happening, they don't know how long it will last.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ELAM: And as you take a look at those neighborhoods that are being inundated with this lava, these fissures that continually open, each day there is a couple more that are opening, Poppy, with that in mind, they're allowing these folks that live in this neighborhood to get in there for a few hours. They did it yesterday, they'll do it again today, to get what they need and check on their homes. But they're still saying that this area is under a mandatory evacuation because it's just too precarious, not just because of the lava, but also because of the air quality with those toxic gases, Poppy.

HARLOW: Of course. Stephanie Elam, thank you for being there, thank you for the reporting. We'll keep a very close eye on this.

Meantime, Senator John McCain is thinking about what and who he wants at his own funeral. These are words of his own. Some new reporting ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:47:10] HARLOW: So a source close to Senator John McCain says that President Trump is not expected to be invited to McCain's funeral. Let's hope that funeral is a long ways off. And McCain, of course, has been battling brain cancer for nearly a year. But his maverick spirit is still very much intact.

We're learning all of this from a fascinating, very important new piece by Jonathan Martin in the "New York Times," who spoke to, among many people, about 30 people, Joe Lieberman and Joe Biden as well.

So thank you for this reporting. And, I mean, it's difficult to even talk about John McCain's funeral, but this is something that he's publicly talking about, Jonathan.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, McCain right now is facing the fight of his life. And he is doing what a lot of folks do when they have this kind of challenge, they're reckoning with their past and they're reminiscing about their past.

HARLOW: Yes.

MARTIN: And they're seeing lots of old friends and -- but they're also thinking about the future and, look, you know, politics does not wait for -- you know, depend on niceties and discretion.

HARLOW: Yes.

MARTIN: The fact is this is an election year, the Senate is up for grabs, the Republicans have a one-seat majority, and if McCain passes away before the end of May, there could be two Senate elections this fall in Arizona. So this is kind of a story about McCain's life, but it is also very much a political story in the here and now.

HARLOW: It is. And he urged, according to your reporting, Joe Biden not to walk away from politics.

MARTIN: Right.

HARLOW: Right, 2020?

MARTIN: Right. So, you know, he's thinking about -- yes. You know, Biden, in fact, brought that up to me with no prompting at all. He said, yes, John, as he calls him, said basically stay in the fight. Don't walk away. Now I kind of followed up with the vice president on that, and said, well, is he talking about '20 specifically? And Mr. Biden wouldn't comment further. But of course it was clear that that's kind of where his head was, and, you know, those are the kinds of comments that you make when you see people that you care about and that, you know, you want to have a say about their future.

And it is so poignant for Biden, of course, because he lost his friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, to the same disease.

HARLOW: Sure.

MARTIN: And then he lost his own son Beau Biden to brain cancer. So for the former vice president, this really hits home.

HARLOW: Of course it does because of his loss of Beau as you said. You know, when you look, though, at him, you know, friendly with the Democrats but also potentially thinking that Democrats it sounds like could make a good president, also he spoke about regret for not putting Joe Lieberman, an independent who caucused with Democrats, on his ticket because he was so worried about the politics of it.

[10:50:04] MARTIN: Right. Yes. You know, I always thought that McCain at the end of his life, whenever that moment came, would say something about his regrets when it comes to Sarah Palin. I covered that campaign. And, you know, McCain has a sort of penchant for self- criticism and honesty. Sometimes it takes a while, but he invariably sort of critiques himself and this is one of those examples where I kind of knew what happened eventually.

What he's done, though, he's not criticizing Palin directly. He's not saying he regrets picking her. He's being a little bit more delicate about the matter and saying he wishes that he had selected Joe Lieberman instead.

HARLOW: Right.

MARTIN: And that's what he wanted to do at the time. He says very clearly his staff said no, there will be a huge backlash with our base, you can't do it. And McCain now says that that is one of his regrets, he wishes he had.

HARLOW: Right.

MARTIN: And he's not just thinking about the past, he's thinking about the future and as you alluded to, his family has made plans for his eventual funeral services and they have indicated to the White House that they do not want President Trump there.

HARLOW: Right.

MARTIN: That they would prefer to have the vice president come.

HARLOW: But that they want former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama to eulogize him.

MARTIN: Right. Right. Right. And what is striking about that, of course, is that those are the two people that he ran against.

HARLOW: Right.

MARTIN: He lost the primary to Bush in 2000 and then he lost the general election to Obama in '08. But that sort of captured how things -- the spirit of John McCain, somebody whose entire political identity has been more about, in his mind, country above politics.

HARLOW: Exactly.

MARTIN: And so I think that kind of bipartisan approach makes sense for him.

HARLOW: And what better way to symbolize that, right? Than to have former presidents Obama and Bush giving these eulogies for him.

John, it's a fascinating piece. MARTIN: At a moment when the country is so polarized, too.

HARLOW: Exactly.

MARTIN: Yes. Exactly.

HARLOW: Exactly. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: Thanks.

HARLOW: All right. So Stormy Daniels took a few digs at the president over the weekend on "Saturday Night Live." Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, said well, that really cuts into her credibility. We'll have Brian Stelter on with us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:56:34] HARLOW: Stormy Daniels got some big laughs during a surprise appearance on "SNL" this weekend. But President Trump's new attorney says Daniels' stop on "Saturday Night Live" just weakens her case. Look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Just tell me, what do you need for this to all go away?

STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM ACTRESS: A resignation. I know you don't believe in climate change, but a storm's a coming, baby.

GIULIANI: If I were her lawyer, I'd be very upset. Fame and fortune, let me make money, how is she damaged? She's become rich as a result of this. $130,000 doesn't mean anything. Boy, I wish that was my case. People can judge why the heck you let her go on "Saturday Night Live" if this is a serious case and not a comedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Our senior media correspondent Brian Stelter joins us now.

So, I mean, Rudy Giuliani's point is, look, Stormy Daniels going on "SNL" may make her more rich or more famous, but it hurts the legal case that she -- or cases that she has put forward against the president.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And of course he wants that to be true. He wants those little cases to be hurt. Michael Avenatti has had an interesting response to this over the weekend saying --

HARLOW: Her lawyer.

STELTER: Yes. Our strategy, he says, his strategy with Stormy is to have a maximum PR, maximum pressure campaign. If you think about what Avenatti has been doing the last two months with your daily appearances on cable news, it is what he seems to be trying to do, keep up the pressure on Trump and on his legal team at the same time they have these two lawsuits playing out. And the more interesting suit right now is the defamation suit Stormy Daniels has filed against the president. That's a defamation suit, saying the president essentially called her a liar, but that's separate -- 2

HARLOW: Which he did --

STELTER: Yes.

HARLOW: Which he did on Twitter.

STELTER: By saying it was a con job in a tweet about her.

HARLOW: Right.

STELTER: Now the question is whether her appearance on "SNL" undermines her argument that her reputation has been damaged and that she deserves a lot of payment for that damage. We can see that her star is on the rise, that she has celebrity status. But, you know, sometimes a joke is just a joke. I think a lot of people, they were called and offered a chance to have a cameo on "SNL," they might say yes.

HARLOW: Including, lest we forget.

STELTER: That's right.

HARLOW: Candidates for president. Not just candidate Trump, candidate Hillary Clinton, candidate Barack Obama. Remember this moment?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You used to call me on the cell phone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: I tried to forget that moment. But no, no, I do remember it. He has better dance moves than me. Even a couple of years later, still true. But this is a good point that, you know, the president, of course, when he was campaigning, he used "SNL" as a platform, in some ways a little bit like what Stormy Daniels is doing now. I think she in some ways is benefitting from this attention. But she has said she's also had to spend a lot more money as she's making more money by hiring security for example.

HARLOW: In terms of the court of public opinion, I mean, "SNL's" ratings are way up. It is so enmeshed in our political discourse these days.

STELTER: Yes. She's proven to be an effective thorn in the president's side, more so even than some Democratic lawmakers or some Hollywood celebrities. But I thought what "SNL" did this Saturday, having so many stars on one segment, from Ben Stiller to Jimmy Fallon, to Scarlet Johansson, it was a really remarkable segment. If you haven't seen it, go on YouTube, it's seven minutes long, totally worth watching. And "SNL" is benefiting like so many comedians are from the Trump page.

HARLOW: Yes. Brian Stelter, nice to have you.

STELTER: Thanks.

HARLOW: Thank you so much.

And thank you all for being with us today. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

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