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Report: White House Briefing Among Aide's Joke About McCain's Health; White House Won't Say If Aide Should Apologize; AT&T Paid Cohen $600k For Consultation on Merger; Deputy Saves Baby's Life With CPR. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 11, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it fair to take that immigration is now the signature priority item?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's been a constant priority for the president and something we'd certainly still like to see. David.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Two questions. We've heard a lot about White House aide Kelly Sadler and her comments about Senator McCain reportedly saying in a meeting that the president shouldn't worry about the senator's opposition because he is dying anyway. Meghan McCain, his daughter wondered aloud today why Kelly Sadler still has a job here at the White House. Does she still have a job?

SANDERS: I'm not going to comment on an internal staff meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: President Trump said today he still has faith in EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. Do you know if he was aware when he said that about these new freedom of information act documents that showed last year administrator Pruitt had dinner in Rome with a Catholic Cardinal who was under investigation for child sex abuse?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of that. I haven't spoken with the president about administrator Pruitt today. Catherine.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Following up on Kelly Sadler's comment, does the White House not feel it needs to condemn these remarks?

SANDERS: I'm not going to validate a leak out of an internal staff meeting one way or the other. Jonathan.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the president regret what he said during the campaign about John McCain when he said he wasn't a war hero, prefers people that weren't captured?

SANDERS: I believe the president has spoken about that. I haven't talked with him specifically about that, Jeff.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If you won't comment on the specific comment, what does the White House believe about Senator McCain? Is there a tone set where it's allowed for an aide to say he's dying anyway?

SANDERS: Certainly, there is not a tone set here? We focus on doing things that help every American in this country every single day. If you look at the policies we put forth, you'll see that reflected.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why not apologize to Senator McCain --

SANDERS: I'm am not going to get into it because people want to comment on leaked staff meeting. If the president no longer has confidence in a cabinet member, he'll let you go.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What more does the president think Nielsen could do now under the law that she hasn't done already. Does he really want her to close the U.S./Mexico border?

SANDERS: The president wants us to do a number of things, he wants us to work with Congress as we've laid out time and time again as we called on them to do. If Democrats in congress would stop playing political games, we'd love to secure the border, close the loopholes and get a fix on DACA.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does he support the Republicans getting a vote on the floor of the House to get it going?

SANDERS: If it addressed all of those problems, certainly we would support things that actually fix the broken immigration system that we have.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The secretary of homeland security said the president was rightly frustrated by congressional inaction. Why was that frustration expressed by the secretary herself? She doesn't serve in Congress. Why did the president direct his frustration specifically at her at the cabinet meeting?

SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to get into a back and forth with you guys on an internal meeting. I can tell you the president and the secretary share the frustration that Congress is simply not showing up to work and getting their job done. Democrats have got to stop playing games, they've got to stop doing this just because it a mid term year, they still have to do their job and we would like to see them fix our immigration system. Not only is the administration frustrated, but Americans are, too. 80 percent of Americans would like to see this problem fixed. They want something to be done. They are begging Congress to do it and certainly I think not only does the president have a right to be frustrated, he has a right to be angry and he is. He's going to express that. He's done it both publicly and he's going to continue to do that until we can actually fix this problem.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the White House on track to meet Speaker Ryan's deadline next Thursday on NAFTA?

SANDERS: We're continuing on the conversations and hopefully we'll get there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the president willing to revisit this after the elections in Mexico and the midterms?

SANDERS: We'll let you know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A follow up on one of my colleagues, to be clear, Does Kelly Sadler still work at this White House?

SANDERS: Yes, she does.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the president set the tone? Does he bear responsibility for the tone of this White House?

[15:35:00] SANDERS: The president, as I mentioned just a moment ago, supports all Americans. If you look at what he's doing every single day, he's showing up to work, he's working hard to make this country better, whether it's through building our economy, creating jobs, defeating is, fixing our judiciary system, helping with the illegal immigration problems that we have, the president is addressing a number of issues. That is what our focus is. It is what we are doing here every day and it what the president has laid out very clearly what his interests are.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does he bare responsibility for the tone set here at the White House and all of the staffers who work here?

SANDERS: He certainly does and I this he has done a good job of laying out what the priorities of the administration are and a that what they are doing is helping impact Americans all across the country. Sorry, I have to keep moving. I'm going to keep going.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think they're lying?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, General Kelly came out and endorsed in an NPR interview a pathway to citizenship for protected status immigrants who have been in the United States for some time. Does the president share General Kelly's view on that?

SANDERS: I certainly know both the president and General Kelly want to fix the system. I'd have to look at that specific comment.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did General Kelly oppose the administration's and actually give a deadline for some people who have been here for 20 years --

SANDERS: I would have to look at the comment before I weigh in.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: South Korea had a huge stake in whatever Trump and Kim agree upon. Will President Moon or the representative of South Korea be at the talks?

SANDERS: I don't believe that there are plans for them to be part of that specific day, but certainly have been a partner in this entire process and, as you know, President Moon will be here on the 22nd to continue those conversations and we continue to be in lock step with the South Koreans. Hunter.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On Wednesday the president tweeted, quote, the fake news is working overtime. He said 91 percent of the network news about me is negative (fake). Do you have the view that all news stories about the president are fake?

SANDERS: No. I'll take one last question. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The payments from AT&T and Novartis, you said

this is a sign the president won't be influenced. To clarify, does the president think it appropriate for his personal attorney to be collecting payments from private companies presumably promising to influence policy or to give them strategy on government policy?

SANDERS: I think the bigger point is that the president isn't going to be influenced by outsight special interests. He's going to do what he finds to be in the best interests of Americans across the country. Thanks so much, guys. Hope you have a great weekend and happy Mother's Day.

KEILAR: All right. I want to bring in Gloria Borger to talk about what we just witnessed there in the White House press briefing. So, a couple of things.

BORGER: What did we just witness?

KEILAR: Well, that is a good question. Willful ignorance I would say is what we witnessed. So, Kelly Sadler is a low-level aide, she says in this meeting according to a White House official that he's dying anyways, about John McCain. Dismissing his opposition to Gina Haspel, the president's CIA pick on the basis of her involvement in the torture program. And she says she's not going to validate, Sarah Sanders, a leak out of an internal staff meeting. We validated it. It's been widely reported. We know this happened.

BORGER: So, did the staffers.

KEILAR: We've also validated that she called Meghan McCain to apologize.

BORGER: Exactly.

KEILAR: So, what do you think of this?

BORGER: I just for the life --

KEILAR: Why can't she just condemn this?

BORGER: Right. For the life of me I can't understand why the staffer has admitted she did it, she called Meghan McCain to apologize. Yes, it was a leak, but it was accurate. And why the White House can't say, look, we've spoken to her, we've told her we think this is inappropriate, we think we need to move on from this, this is not the way anyone in the White House ought to conduct themselves and then just move on.

[15:40:00] But by refusing to even say what she said was hurtful, wrong, tasteless, you know, use whatever adjective you want, you sort of extend this story and of course the underlying story, which is that the president and John McCain doesn't get along.

KEILAR: Doesn't this just make the point, which in another breath Sarah Sanders is trying to reject, which is that a tone is set from the top. And when you have a president who denigrates the service record of a senator who was a POW. and he did that from the jump in his campaign, that it makes it really difficult to have respect at levels below the president.

BORGER: Right. I think that the tone is set from the top and, you know, Sarah Sanders is not going to say that but as I was saying before, the context to all of this is the president himself saying that John McCain wasn't a war hero, still denigrating John McCain because of his vote on the repeal of the affordable care act, just recently knowing full well in a John McCain is not well. So, this has continued from the president himself, so the question is do you consider this acceptable language in a White House? And shouldn't it be condemned? And instead she decided to just say, well, I'm not going to get into that because it was a leak. Well, what does that tell you?

KEILAR: And Kaitlan, I want to bring you in from White House to talk about this. There are ways we have seen press secretaries in the past while sort of disingenuously arguing that they're not confirming something, talking at least conceptually about what would have been acceptable behavior. That would have been one way to approach this but shy didn't, she totally punted on it.

KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: This is something we have seen play out time and time again in this White House. They are faced with some sort of controversy. It so easy to solve it by saying the staffer made the wrong remark, she should apologize, she shouldn't have said that and instead of doing that, instead of refusing to even acknowledge what she said was awful and crass, the White House instead just doubles down on their defense of this person and moves along giving more life to what the problem is that goes along.

And I should note that even Kelly Sadler called Meghan McCain, John McCain's daughter, to apologize for the remark that she made. But even the White House will not do that much simply saying we're not going to comment on something said during an internal meeting with 20 to 25 staffers are so. Something that could usually get out. The White House seems more concerned here with the fact that this comment was divulged to someone in the media, more so than the fact that she made this remark. And you heard Sarah Sanders there reaffirming very strongly that Kelly Sadler does still work in this White House. Someone who was a White House staffer is funded by taxpayers with her paycheck, who made a comment about someone who is a senator who has served this country and who has incurable brain cancer saying, yes, she still works at this White House. Not noting any kind of criticism or punishment for making a remark like that in White House.

It is just stunning. People who work in this White House are typically held to incredibly high standards, they are very lucky and privileged to have these job serving the country, and there we have Kelly Sadler making a comment about a senator, something she even she apologized for. Something the White House is refusing to do, Brianna.

KEILAR: And, Gloria, when the White House press secretary refuses to condemn a comment, then there's -- part of it is that she then is taking some ownership of the comment herself, right? When she passes on a chance to say no, which she was asked about negative news being fake news as the president said and she basically disagreed with what the president said in his tweet. She didn't have a problem with that.

But here in this case she doesn't take the opportunity to at least take, you know, her own position on this.

BORGER: I think she has an audience of one, and if I had to guess, the president of the United States did not want her to go out there and say anything other than what she said period.

[15:45:00] We know that the president watches these briefings, we know Sarah Sanders meets with the president very often before these briefings. I've got to assume this was brought up with the president before she went out there. So, it seems to that she was doing what she was told was appropriate coming from this White House. And there is only one person who is directing her at that level and how I presume it is the president of United States himself.

KEILAR: There were a few things discussed in this as I bring in our guests to talk about this. One of the topics that Sarah Sanders was asked about was these payments to Michael Cohen, who is the president's personal lawyer, payments from companies, you know, these don't pass the sniff test as far as coming from a president who wants to drain the swamp. What did you think about what she said and what else are you learning about these payments?

HADAS GOLD, CNN MONEY, POLITICS, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, these payments sink of the swamp. When Michael Cohen was doing and what these companies like AT&T are fully admitting is that Michael Cohen approached them actually. AT&T said they did not go after Michael Cohen. He went to them and said, hey, I know the president, I know the key players around him, I know what they're going to do. Pay me $50,000 a month and I will tell you everything I know. Now if that doesn't stink of the swamp there and I don't know what else it could be. But what we're also learning from all of this is that AT&T specifically paid Michael Cohen over the course of the year to advise them on things that the government was going to decide that directly related to AT&T, including $85 billion merger with our parent company, Time Warner.

A judge will decide that soon on June 12th. What's also clear is that Michael Cohen has no expertise in any of these things. He's not an anti-trust lawyer, he doesn't know about tax reforms and SEC regulations so what he was selling was probably knowledge and maybe even access.

KEILAR: I mean, access. That seems just very -- that's right, mostly access. So, Sarah Sanders statement kind of doesn't follow logically, but it says I think that this further proves that the president is not going to be involved in special interests, this is the definition of draining the swamp. Larry?

LARRY NOBLE, GENERAL COUNSEL, CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER: I have no idea what that means. Maybe it means his lawyer will be involved in the swamp and not him. This is really unusual. This looks terrible. What you have to keep in mind is that it is normal, accepted in Washington you have shadow lobbyists. You have people who have worked for an administration. They come out and they advise. And they don't actually lobby. So, they are not registered lobbyists.

What you don't have is somebody who is the president's personal lawyer when he is doing this offering his services. In saying that I can get you access, I can give you information. And that is even deeper than the swamp.

KEILAR: So, the difference to you is because of the position that who held?

NOBLE: If he didn't hold that position, I would still say it was bad. If he had just come out of the government, I would say this is a classic problem of the shadow lobbyist coming out selling access, selling his knowledge. But right now, what he is doing is he is working for the president. Why hasn't the president said anything about this?

KEILAR: The irony is that during the election, the Clinton Foundation, which I covered Hillary Clinton, so I covered this a lot, was and still is a platform for the Clintons and was a platform for someone who is running for president, and there was so much criticism that it was just this way to buy access to the Clintons. We should note the Clinton Foundation, unlike Michael: to my knowledge provides philanthropic services quite readily around the world. What do you about that irony?

NOBLE: It is similar except for the fact that Cohen is not doing any philanthropy. And I don't know if the Clinton Foundation was expressly selling access, going up to people and saying, if you want to meet with the president or if you want to meet with the Secretary of State, give us money.

Other than that, it's similar. It's not similar at all really. What you have here is a situation where somebody who was working for Trump is selling access. But keep in mind and you said this before, it comes from the top. Trump hasn't given up his businesses, his daughter hasn't given up her businesses, Jared hasn't given up his businesses. Basically, there is a philosophy that you make what you can while you're working for the government. Do what you want. And here Cohen is not even working for the government. And that is important because a lot of laws would not apply to him that would apply if he did work for the government.

But this is basically grab what you can. And so, what he did is what I think Trump must find acceptable because who hasn't done anything about it, is he went out and sold his access to the president.

[15:50:00] BORGER: I talked to a friend of the president's, was it yesterday? Who said that he thought Trump would be really upset about this because these are people as he put it harvesting money on his back. And that he was out there. This is a president obsessed with keeping his campaign promises, et cetera et cetera. And this friend said that he -- that Trump did not know this, but we don't know that for a fact.

What we do know is that Michael Cohen was overselling himself because once Donald Trump left Trump Tower and the transition was over, that he was kind of excommunicated and no longer was in direct communication with the president after the transition, something that was really hurtful to him, quite frankly. So, what he was doing was telling -- telling people, I can get things done for you, and then Novartis, for example, after one meeting with him, said what?

KEILAR: But didn't deal with the services. It was very interesting. Thank you so much. Everyone, thank you. We'll get a quick break in but first a sneak peek at Sunday night's episode of the "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: The Gullah are fighting to preserve their culture and like all marginalized groups in America, it is always a fight.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Unfortunately, people would say to me, boy, you're too Geechee, and the reason they said that, because you need to change your -- you came from the plantation and you can't get ahead. But we were losing our own culture. To learn about these people that talk funny, and we still carry on those traditions and if we don't carry it on, it's going to die out.

BELL: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Be sure to watch "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" this Sunday night at 10:00 eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:55:00] KEILAR: Years of training and quick thinking from a Florida deputy saved a baby's life and it was caught on his dash cam. Deputy Jeremie Nix on the way home from his shift when a woman flagged him down and told him her baby was unresponsive and he jumped into action and performed CPR and rushed the baby to the hospital himself instead of waiting on an ambulance.

The baby Kingston is now back home and expected to make a full recovery and joining us now, the hero who helped save his life. Deputy Jeremie Nix with us. This video, deputy, it is amazing to watch just how you so quickly spring to action. You're so calm under pressure. But just tell us a little bit about this -- tell us how mom got your attention and what you thought when you realized that this was a tiny baby who was in trouble. Because I know you're trained in infant CPR but never used it before.

JEREMIE NIX, FLORIDA DEPUTY WHO SAVED BABY'S LIFE: Right. So, it was a conclusion on my shift and headed home. I was talking on the phone to my wife, on the Bluetooth and sitting at the intersection, I started hearing this horn blowing pretty rapidly. I looked around thinking it was just some impatient driver and we have the red light, so I don't know what they're blowing the horn for and I realize it is on my driver's side. So, I looked to my left and as I looked out the window, I saw a lady trying to get my attention and I rolled my window down and she said my baby is not breathing and I said pull over and then you saw --

KEILAR: Have you talked to the mom --

NIX: We have been in contact. I've checked on him day and night. She sent me a picture before I got him, of him smiling and grinning from ear to ear. And he is happy and eating well and amazed he's had zero side effect, it is a miracle. God put me in the right place at the right time for the right season.

KEILAR: And you -- that is why you think you were the guy who was there at that place at that time?

NIX: Not a doubt in my mind.

KEILAR: How has this changed your life?

NIX: It will forever change my life. I've been doing this 17 and a half years. I've been in some really bad situations. I've been in some great situations. At this point in time, nothing will -- has been or will I ever be to expect for it to compare to what my interaction with Kingston. We'll be buddies for a good time to come.

KEILAR: It is heartwarming to watch this video and to watch you jumping into action and making all of the difference and we appreciate you, Deputy Nix, for sharing this with us. Thank you.

NIX: Thank you. I appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:00] KEILAR: We'll take a moment to recognize this week's CNN hero. He visited Vietnam as a tourist and when he saw children begging in the streets he moves there and now he works year-round to give young people of the skills to rise out of poverty.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEAL BERMAS, FOUNDER, STREETS INTERNATIONAL: The young people in the program come from the whole country. All kinds of very, very difficult pasts. We have kids with HIV, and a kid from leprosy villages. Some have already been trafficked sometimes more than once.

You'll do great.

Within a couple of years, no matter how difficult and painful and how tortured their life may have been, with 100 percent assurance I know that young person will be starting a career with all kinds of possibilities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: And to see how this program works and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero, go to CNNheroes.com. I am Brianna Keilar in for Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for joining me. I want to send it over to Jim Sciutto now. "THE LEAD" starts right now.