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Iran And Israel Tensions Escalate; President Trump And Kim Jong-Un Summit Set For June 12 In Singapore; Source Says AT&T Hired Michael Cohen As Consultant; Cohen Under Fire For Alleged Influence Peddling; Deadly Niger Ambush; New Threats From Kilauea Volcano; J.K. Rowling Trolls Trump Over Signature. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired May 11, 2018 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:08:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, the proxy war is over, so when will the all-out war between Israel and Iran begin?
It's on, the date and place have been set, new details on the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
And later, cashing in on the presidency, Michael Cohen made a lot more of his access to the president than previously reported. We'll talk to an ethics expert.
Hello everybody, thank you for being with us. I'm John Vause, this is the second hour of Newsroom L.A.
Israel says it has inflicted heavy damage on Iran's military infrastructure inside Syria. President Benjamin Netanyahu says the overnight air strikes were an appropriate response after Iran, in his words, "crossed a red line" with a missile attack on Israeli forces in the Golan Heights.
The region remains tense, but relatively quiet right now amid international calls for calm, and Israel warns any further aggression will be met with overwhelming force. Or, as Mr. Netanyahu put it, "whoever hits us will get hit seven times over".
For the latest now, we'll go live to Ian Lee in Jerusalem.
So, Ian, there has been widespread international support for Israel and its military offensive. In the meantime for Iran it seems it's a case of nothing to see here.
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, and we haven't heard from the Iranians about this attack Israel says that they carried out. You know, the interesting thing about it, too, is when you look at what Israel said Iran did.
They had over 20 rockets, but the majority of these rockets didn't actually make it to Israeli territory, they fell short inside Syria. The other ones, though, there are some that Israel was able to shoot down with its Iron Dome anti-missile system and then Israel retaliated, launching dozens of strikes across Syria.
The Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said that they hit almost all of Iran's infrastructure in the country. This is what Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had to say about the retaliation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Iran crossed a red line. Our response was appropriate. The IDF carried out a broad strike - - a very broad strike against Iranian targets in Syria. We are in the midst of a protracted (ph) battle and our policy is clear. We will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: So, you have this - - what Israel says is this Iran tack, you know, the one thing we've been hearing from Iran for a while, John, is that you know Israel has struck targets - - Iranian targets in Syria before. Iran says they're going to retaliate.
If this was Iran's retaliation, it doesn't seem to be a big retaliation and then, you also have Iran not claiming it. So, there are some question marks, some answers that people would like from Iran.
VAUSE: Just - - about the missile attack from the Iranians, 16 fell short, apparently four were taken out by Iron Dome, the defense system, and this is apparently you know the elite Quds force commanded by Qasem Soleimani. He's' the leader who never lost a battel in four years in Iraq and Syria.
So, you know, if this is Iran's big retaliation after months of airstrikes by Israel and this is meant to be the start of some all-out confrontation, did someone forget to tell Tehran?
LEE: I think you hit it on the head there, John. You know, we've been waiting to hear what Iran is going to say about this. You know, we're listening to the experts, as well, and there does seem to be some question marks about this.
You have this one rocket launching truck that fired 20 rockets, Israel took it out, but you're right this is their elite Quds force that has been so instrumental in fighting in Syria and Iraq, and then, this is what they produce. Some people are wondering if the Rouhani government actually knew that this was taking place.
Because we have to look about it in the context of what's going on right now, as well. The Rouhani government is trying to deal with Europeans after the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. Their trying to figure out how they can move forward with the Europeans, with the Russians, with the Chinese.
This is something that Iran wants to have hanging over the talks with the countries. Case in point is when Rouhani spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday. Merkel condemned this Iranian aggression and then we heard from Rouhani - - that says he wants a cessation of tensions, he doesn't want this to escalate any further.
And so, the question is did Rouhani know this? You know, the one thing about the IRGC is they don't answer to Rouhani, they answer to the supreme leader.
[01:05:00] And so, how high up does this go? You know, that's a good question. Who actually knew about this? Or, was this a low-level decision that was taken inside Syria?
VAUSE: Yes. It's interesting that you know Hezbollah didn't respond, the Syrians didn't really respond in any significant way and you now the Iranians could have hit much more heavily populated area further south. You know, Tel Aviv or some kind of strategic infrastructure, but they didn't.
Ian, good to see you. Thank you.
Well, we have new details now about the upcoming summit between the U.S. President, Donald Trump, and North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-un.
We have a date, June 12th. We have a place, Singapore. And, the choice of the city-state is seen as a win for senior White House aides, who'd argued for a neutral location. Among those arguing for that was the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
The announcement came just hours after three Americans held in North Korean prisons were returned to the U.S. Mr. Trump spoke about their release, and the upcoming summit, during a speech to supporters in Indiana, just a few hours ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kim Jong-un did a great service to himself, to his country, by doing this, but those hostages came out with respect. We didn't pay for them. We're going to set the table. We're going to make a great deal for the world, for North Korea, for South Korea, for Japan, for China.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Mike Chinoy is a senior fellow at the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California. He also spent 24 years as a foreign correspondent for CNN. My, that's a long time. Chief Asia correspondent, as well, Beijing Bureau Chief, just to name a few.
Mike, good to see you.
The U.S. president, he's got about a month now to set expectations for what could be achieved at this summit. He's already tweeted this, saying, "They'll try and make a special moment for world peace".
Is he setting the bar maybe just a little bit high here?
MIKE CHINOY, SENIOR FELLOW, U.S.-CHINA INSTITUTE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: I think Trump has set the bar very, very high and it increases the pressure on him to come away with what he can present as a victory. And, I think the problem in that is this is an immensely complicated situation.
And, when you get past this sort of good vibes rhetoric coming out of Washington about it. The North Korean and American positions on denuclearization appear to be still very far apart.
So, I think it's a big problem for the president if he goes in and wants to be able to spin this as having solved the problem. When I think the odds are he's very unlikely to do so.
VAUSE: Here's a little more from the president talking at that rally - - campaign style rally in Indiana, talking about his strategy with the North Koreans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But, you remember everybody in the fake news where they were saying, "he's going to get us into a nuclear war", "he's going to get us into a nuclear war".
And, you know what gets you into nuclear wars? And, you know what gets you into other wars? Weakness. Weakness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Does weakness get you into a war? Or, is it a failure of diplomacy, which gets you into a war?
CHINOY: Well, I think it depends on the circumstances in the specific situation. President Trump has tried very hard to present North Korea's decision to reach out to the United States, to engage with South Korea, to have this summit, as the successful product of the pressure that the U.S. brought on North Korea.
While, I think it is quite likely that the prospect of intensifying sanctions was one element in Kim Jong-un's calculations, I for one don't think it's the central element. The North Korean leader in January, in his New Year's speech which
opened the door to all this diplomacy, made clear that in his view North Korea had achieved its goal of creating what he calls a 'nuclear deterrent to defend the country against external threats. And therefore, it was time to shift the focus onto the economy.
So, my own sense is that Kim Jong-un feels he is coming into this summit from a position of strength, that he's now bowing to American pressure, but in fact he's been setting the terms and setting the agenda.
VAUSE: You're familiar with the website 38 North? For our viewers, it's a great website - - very insightful when it comes to North Korea. And, they argue that the policy of maximum pressure is pretty much dead.
And, they also put out this incredible turnaround for Kim Jong-un. "In five short months he has totally reversed the diplomatic momentum on the situation. While he's still under sanctions pressure, he has eliminated any hope the U.S. could resort to military action and maintain its alliance with the ROK", Republic of Korea-South Korea.
"He has likely shifted China's position back to its more tradition semi-supportive approach to the DPRK", North Korea, "especially as long as Kim refrains from further provocations, and he has isolated President Trump should the President with to return to a policy of maximum pressure."
I mean, how do you see it?
[01:10:00] I mean, that sounds like Kim Jong-un is going to be the big winner out of this, no matter what happens.
CHINOY: I think that's a pretty accurate description of where we're at. I mean, one of the things to watch very carefully is what position President Trump himself takes when he goes into these talks, because he's set up the - - the - - the summit as a great triumph in which there's going to be an epic deal for peace.
But, if you listen to what, for example, John Bolton is saying, or Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is saying, they're talking - - Bolton in particular, about the Libya model, in which North Korea would agree up front to abandon all of its nuclear ambitions and its nuclear program, and after that, would begin to get significant benefits from the United States.
If you read what the North Koreans have been saying, they're talking about a step-by-step phased process of negotiation, each step they make, they want something in return.
So, that is a very big difference. My only sense is that the likeliest outcome, if it doesn't turn into a disaster, is that Trump and Kim will agree on some sweeping goals. A peace treaty, better relations and that Kim will, in fact, agree to roll back some of his long-range missile capabilities.
so that President Trump can say to the American public there is no longer a threat of North Korean nukes hitting the continental United States, but Kim Jong-un will likely walk away from this summit with a lot of his nuclear arsenal intact.
VAUSE: So, exactly what does (inaudible) look like, because if this doesn't go well, then what happens?
CHINOY: If President Trump comes in and sticks to what John Bolton has been saying should be American policy, which is you agree up front, North Korea, to give all of this up and then we can talk about friendlier relations and using of sanctions.
And Kim Jong-un says no deal, you take the first step, then it's possible it will end in acrimony and then it gets very dangerous. Because all of the underlying issues have not been resolved and the option of having the two leaders meet to try to resolve things, is no longer applicable because they've already met.
So, it could get very dangerous, but I think President Trump has set this up in such a way that there's tremendous pressure on him - - that he's created a lot of, to come away with what he can spin as a victory.
And, whether that means he'll agree to terms that in fact let North Korea maintain its nuclear arsenal, which I think is entirely possible, or not, we'll have to see, but the potential - - if they get into the substance for deep disagreements, is still very real.
VAUSE: Absolutely. And Mike, we should mention you're the author of "Meltdown" the inside story of the North Korean nuclear crisis. A pretty timely read at this point, always a good read.
Mike, as always, thanks for being with us.
VAUSE: Okay. There are new questions about Donald Trump's long time lawyer selling access to the president. Just ahead, how it all connects with one of the richest men - - ahh, you guessed it, in Russia.
[01:15:44:00] VAUSE: Well, Donald Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, is facing new questions about what he did in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees. AT&T confirms it hired Cohen for advice on its purchase of Time Warner, the parent company of this network, and AT&T is not alone.
The allegations of influence peddling were first brought to life by Stormy Daniels attorney. Here's CNN's Senior Media Correspondent, Brian Stelter. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Michael Avenatti didn't know how much he was really on to. His information two days ago, was this was $200,000 for four months. Well, now we know this was $600,000 for a full year of work.
AT&T saying it won't really go into detail about what exactly Cohen was doing, but according to documents obtained by the Washington Post, he was giving advice and information about Trump's mind set, his thinking and about the government's position about anti-trust law and net neutrality.
Now, anti-trust is interesting, because AT&T's been trying to buy this channels parent company, Time Warner, right now it's being blocked in court by an anti-trust suit by the DOJ. A judge is thinking about what to do, he's about to rule, he's going to rule in about a month.
So, we'll see if this deal is allowed to go forward, but apparently Cohen was giving advice and guidance about that deal. That huge deal that's going to reshape the media world.
The question, of course, wait a second Michael Cohen, he's a real estate guy, he's a fixer for Donald Trump. What in the heck does he know about telecom (ph) law? There have been lobbying firms, law firms and other groups working in Washington for decades that provide these kinds of services.
The difference now, of course, it's the president's personal attorney, who's advice, who's offering himself up, who's selling himself to the highest bidder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Brian Stelter, there.
And, we have a statement from the White House saying, "The president makes up his own mind about policy matters. He's not influenced by the kinds of things that you're referencing."
Another top attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says the president was not aware Michael Cohen was profiting off his ties to Mr. Trump. But, as CNN's Tom Foreman reports, Cohen has a history of curious contacts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'll be back and I look forward to giving all the information that they're looking for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael Cohen presents himself as an open book with nothing but well know and legitimate ties to Russia. Recent reports, however, are suggesting a more nuanced story of Donald Trump's trusted attorney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH HETTENA, AUTHOR, TRUMP/RUSSIA: A DEFINITIVE HISTORY: He's been tied with Russians and Ukrainians for years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Seth Hettena wrote this Rolling Stone story on Russian ties, saying Cohen's uncle, Morton Levine, owned a New York club infamous as a Russian mob hangout, and Cohen had a share in the place, too, before the election.
Cohen also ran a fleet of New York taxis with a Ukrainian born partner. When Trump tower went up, there was Cohen urging the family of his Ukrainian born wife to buy condos. In a five year period, he and people connected to him, would purchase Trump properties worth $17.3 million Rolling Stone says.
Money pushed Trump's way by the scrappy graduate from Cooley Law School in Michigan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HETTENA: Trump didn't hire him because he went to Harvard Law School and he's equipped (ph) for a Supreme Court justice. Trump hired him, I think, because he has these kinds of connections and to Trump, those are seen as valuable and beneficial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Once he was in with Trump, Cohen proudly proclaimed his loyalty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: If there's an issue that relates to Mr. Trump that is of concern to him, it's of course, concern to me and I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Cohen's connections continue to raise curiosity. Just after Trump took office, Cohen passed on a proposed peace plan for Ukraine favorable to Russian interests. There are new reports of money flowing into Cohen's accounts from a company with ties to Russia.
And back in 2015, a Russian born American real estate mogul emailed Cohen about plans to build a Trump tower in Moscow, saying, "I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected." The deal never happened and today . . .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You didn't know anybody close to Putin, or connected to Putin, who was telling you they wanted to help Trump become President of the United States.
FELIX SATER, RUSSIAN BORN REAL ESTATE MOGUL: No, I did not.
(END VIDEO CLIP
FOREMAN: Cohen denies doing anything wrong in all this. Nothing has been proven against him. The special counsel has already looked at many of these connections and, indeed, there is nothing inherently improper about knowing or dealing with Russians.
Still, the entirety of Cohen's contacts in undoubtedly part of what drew the attention of investigators to begin with, and they're not done looking yet.
[01:20:00] Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
VAUSE: CNN contributor, Norm Eisen, was on the ethics staff of the Obama administration. He joins us now from Washington for more on the ethical and legal questions now swirling around Michael Cohen.
And, boy, there are a lot of questions, but I guess, Norm, is the lesson from all of this - - if you want to shake down corporate America, and Russian oligarchs, and cash in on your relationship with a newly elected U.S. President?
Hypothetically speaking, open a second bank account, don't use the same one that had the $130,000, which was the hush money, which was used to pay a porn star, whom may not have slept with said president.
NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, John, thanks for having me back.
And, that is one of the lessons from the gang that can't shoot straight.
Michael Cohen's behavior in this case, whatever the ultimate legalities may be, will go down in the annals of the legal history as some of the stupidest, most venal, self-serving and damaging to his client of any lawyer that we've seen in a very long time.
VAUSE: Seems it's almost like this competition between Cohen and Rudy Giuliani to see who America's worst lawyer is.
But, as far as the Russian oligarch and that $500,000 payment goes, that would seem to be the first direct significant link from a high level Russian figure and someone actually very close to Donald Trump, Michael Cohen. Yet, this wasn't a meeting, it wasn't an email, an invitation to talk about something. This money is real, no one pays out half a million dollars just for, you know, smiles and grins.
EISEN: Well, John, the half million dollar payment from the American company that is linked to that Russian oligarch, Mr. Vekselberg, is profoundly troubling. Now, the American entity claims that Vekselberg had nothing to do with the money.
Mr. Avenatti, Stormy Daniels lawyer, says he did. Thank goodness that we don't have to take a random guess, but we know that the department of justice is looking, and looking hard, at this. So, including they've apparently questioned Mr. Vekselberg, stopping him when he was in the United States.
So, I'm confident that they're going to get some answers. But, you know John, it fits into this pattern, over 70 contacts between those around Trump and Russia, and now we have actual cash money that may, or may not, have been connected to someone in Putin's intimate inner circle.
VAUSE: Okay. Thank you getting me out of legal trouble there.
Cohen had a pretty simple sales pitch. This is what it was, "I don't know who's been representing you, but you should fire them all. I'm the guy you should hire. I'm closest to the president. I'm his personal lawyer."
Transactional simplicity at its best, but I guess because Cohen is not a registered lobbyist, the legal exposure for him is if he crossed the line here. He acted as a lobbyist, as opposed to just a consultant.
So, what's the problem here for Cohen?
EISEN: Well, there are a lot of problems. You're right to raise the question of whether he - - in affect, in any of these matters, was acting as a lobbyist.
You know, it's easy to cross that line, John, if you spend 20 percent of your time on lobbying activity and take just two lobbying meetings - - meetings to try to get a government official to do something, you're a lobbyist, you have to register.
But, the legal problems don't stop there. There's foreign entities who may have been involved here, it's possible.
There's a significant question, did Mr. Cohen have to register under our Foreign Agents Registration Act? You may remember there were issues around Mr. Manafort, and FARA, that statute.
Then, we have the questions about what did Mr. Cohen offer? What did he promise? What did he deliver to these clients? Remember, only at the beginning of learning about this. If there was a quid pro quo, you could be talking bribery. That's a question we need to ask. Just questions.
Final one, did this money have anything to do with the possible illegal activity among those surrounding Donald Trump and the Russians and those 70 plus contacts? We need to get to the bottom of that, as well. We don't know that the answers to any of that were illegalities, but boy, those are some very troubling questions.
There's the smell of smoke, now we just need to see if there's fire in the walls.
VAUSE: It seems to be the case so often.
Remember the good old days during the election campaign, then candidate Trump made this promise over and over, and over and over, again. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When we win on November 8th, we are going to drain the swamp.
Drain the swamp.
We're going to drain the swamp of Washington. We're going to have fun doing it. We're all doing it together.
When it comes to Washington, D.C., it is time to drain the damn swamp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: From everything that we've learned about this administration over the last year and a half or so, is it fair to say they may have traded that swamp for a Caligula's tool party?
EISEN: Well, John, I think they drained the swamp and they filled it with toxic sludge of corruption. You know, when Mr. Trump said drain the swamp, everybody knew what he was talking about. This pattern of cash, special interest influence, special deals for the well connected, at the expense of average folks.
And, instead of addressing that, they've created one of the murkiest thickets of swamp gas that we've ever seen in the history of the United States. I mean, this ranks right up there with the Tea Pot Dome, with Ulysses Grant's scandals, with Watergate, and we're only in the second year of the presidency.
VAUSE: I know, it's amazing. And, I guess, that's a place in the history books for the president, maybe not the one he was hoping for.
But, Norm, it's always so good to see you. Thank you. EISEN: Thanks, John.
VAUSE: Well, a blistering editorial takes aim at the Vice President, Mike Pence, just heads of passion of conservatism gave some harsh words for Mr. Pence.
Also ahead, oozing lava gobbles up homes and streets in Hawaii, but that's not the only threat from the Kilauea volcano.
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles.
I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour.
It looks like the summit between the U.S. President, Donald Trump, and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is set to take place June the 12th in Singapore. Mr. Trump has said he's hopeful there will be an agreement at the end and sees the release of three Americans from North Korean prisons as an optimistic sign.
Israel says it has struck almost all of Iran's military assets inside Syria, after a missile attack targeted Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. The Israeli military blames Iranian troops
[01:29:42] VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
I'm John Vause.
The headlines this hour.
An historic summit between the U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is set to take place June 12 in Singapore. Mr. Trump said he's hopeful there will be an agreement at the end, and sees the release of three Americans from North Korean prison as an optimistic sign.
Israel says it has struck almost all of Iran's military assets inside Syria after a missile attack targeted Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. The Israeli military blames Iranian troops in Syria for that attack. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned "whoever hits us will get hit seven times over".
The telecom giant AT&T confirmed it paid Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen for advice on its planned purchase of CNN's parent company Time Warner. A source says Cohen received $600,000 from AT&T. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani says the President was not aware that Cohen was profiting from their relationship. AT&T was not the only company lining Cohen's pockets.
Here to discuss all of this, we have the host of "The Mo Kelly Show" Mo Kelly and conservative commentator Joe Messina.
Ok. Good to have you with us.
Mo -- first to you. When the Stormy Daniels scandal first broke, it was seen as a salacious personal scandal involving the President and a porn star. It was a bit of a sideshow, totally unrelated to the Russia investigation.
Only now the more we learn about Michael Cohen's business dealings, the more it seems that the Russia investigation and the Stormy Daniels' scandal -- it's all merging into one.
MO KELLY, TALK RADIO HOST: It's almost unintended consequences. I'm quite sure the President didn't think that Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal would have any real impact on his administration. But once again, when you follow the money, it's obviously coming from a similar source.
If we get away from the salaciousness, there are some serious fundamental issues of whether they were peddling influence. And it may not be illegal, but it's awful swamp-like.
VAUSE: It's very swampy.
And Joe -- to this point about, you know, the Russian investigation merging into the Stormy Daniels one, at least two companies have made payments to Cohen, the shell company. They've been questioned by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
JOE MESSINA, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I get what you're saying. But just because he took money from those companies, do you really think it means that President Trump knew something about it or he was going to (INAUDIBLE)?
You saw the same thing that happened with the Clinton Foundation. What does that mean? Every time somebody gave them money, that that gives them influence?
KELLY: But there's a difference because this was specifically to move forward possibly legislation to gain insight on what the President was thinking economically. Whereas the Clinton Foundation, if you want to somehow say that they were giving these donations which were charitable in nature for a foundation in the hopes of possibly getting something -- that's a little bit more of a reach because this is -- we're seeing a direct connection -- a direct point were going to the President's lawyer, one person removed.
MESSINA: The President's personal lawyer --
MESSINA: -- which had nothing to do with what was going on in the White House. That's a stretch, too.
VAUSE: Ok. I guess one of the issues is that, you know, the Clinton Foundation is set up as a charitable organization. Michael Cohen was actually selling himself as someone who had access to the President. I mean it does seem to be, you know, a couple steps closer to, you know, at least looking dodgy.
KELLY: Well, at least Michael Cohen felt that he had that access.
Ok. You know, it seems the Vice President is apparently unaware of anything to do with anything going on at the White House, no idea about Cohen's so-called business. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I could say is that that private matter is something I don't have any knowledge about. And I think the White House issued a statement saying the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Mo -- Mike Pence seems to be either out of town at every key moment for the last year and a half or he just doesn't know what's going on. He's like Sergeant Schultz, you know, "I see nothing. I hear nothing."
KELLY: I actually would not fault the Vice President for doing his job in the sense of he's going to trumpet the President's message. He's not supposed to be the story and he's supposed to stay out of the way.
VAUSE: He's doing a great job of that.
KELLY: Well, he is staying out of the way. But if anything he's -- if anything it's almost like he's protecting himself while protecting the President.
VAUSE: Ok. It's been a year -- a whole year since the special counsel was appointed to investigate Russia's role in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. And again, Vice President Mike Pence says that's enough time. Time's up. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: It's been about a year since this investigation began. Our administration has provided over a million documents. We've fully cooperated in it. And in the interest of the country, I think it's time to wrap it up. And I would very respectfully encourage the special counsel and his team to bring their work to completion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Joe -- Benghazi lasted more than two years; Whitewater went on for eight years before there was a final report handed down. Why is it that this investigation only gets one year?
MESSINA: I think it's politics. You had the Democrats asking for the e-mail scandal to be cut short and to get on with the investigation and stop it. They all do it. Come on, you know, both sides do it on a regular basis.
But in this case here, again, I want to go back to say -- where is the direct line? It's been going on longer than a year. Let's be honest about this. This has been going on about a year and a half.
KELLY: He hasn't presented his evidence.
MESSINA: Well, yes he had. He indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies and now they're calling him on the carpet.
VAUSE: And Paul Manafort -- the campaign director and Michael Flynn --
[01:35:00] MESSINA: Wait a minute -- one of the Russian companies come back to him and said hey, listen, we're willing to go to court and what does Mueller say we're not ready. Then why do you indict them if you're not ready?
KELLY: Five months ago -- he was asking the conversation -- asking questions about Michael Cohen. He's way ahead of us. And until Bob Mueller actually presents his evidence, we can't say he does not have it.
MESSINA: If he has evidence, where is the tie -- the direct tie between Cohen to President to Russia?
VAUSE: Mueller is not presenting anything out there yet. But we are learning slowly -- what we know is just a fraction of what Mueller knows. But it does indicate that it is moving closer to that point of --
KELLY: I think negotiation of the (INAUDIBLE) with the President -- I mean, we all know that's the end game at this point. And --
VAUSE: That's never going to happen. You know why? I think --
MESSIAN: Of course.
VAUSE: -- it's never going to happen because Donald Trump has not sat down with a non-Fox News outlet for more than a year. Do you think he's going to sit down with Robert Mueller for an interview? KELLY: Ego is a dangerous thing.
MESSINA: Would you walk into a trap?
MESSINA: Would you walk into a trap?
KELLY: I wouldn't, but I'm not Donald Trump. There are a lot of things that Donald Trump would do presidents don't do, that I would never do.
MESSINA: As they say, you know, what do you call it? I lost my train of thought. No, no. I mean when it comes to the jury, right -- the grand jury, you know the old joke right. They can indict a ham sandwich.
MESSINA: So you get in there with that information, then what happens? He doesn't know what Mueller is going to ask him. He doesn't know what Mueller has or doesn't have.
KELLY: And Bill Clinton still did it.
VAUSE: Yes. You go down --
MESSINA: But he laid it out -- he laid out two and a half hours of it and look at all the nice --
MESSINA: -- he got out of that.
VAUSE: I want to speak of the Vice President for a while because conservative commentator George Will wrote a scathing opinion piece about Mike Pence. Here's how it stands.
"The oleaginous Mike Pence", he means, you know overly complimentary, "Mike Pence with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness could, Trump knew, become America's most repulsive public figure. And Pence who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor is already the public stock of useful knowledge because this is the authentic voice of today's lickspittle Republican Party. He clarifies this year's elections, vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing."
You know, Mo -- Will does lay bare what he believes is Pence's decision to abandon principle to support this president. And it could be argued Pence is not the only one. KELLY: Yes, you could make argument but I think he is, when you say consider the source, George Will has long been a respected conservative voice. It sounds different, and it should be received differently than if someone were on the far left.
He's someone who has lived and breathed the Republican Party and conservative ideals for generations -- plural. So I may not agree with his tact in the way that he's using those ad hominems but at the same time he is in touch with the -- I would say the heart of the conservative movement.
VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) because this was a, you know, pretty sad moment for the White House. Let's check in and see how this "be best" campaign is working. Here's part of a CNN report from earlier.
White House aide Kelly Sadler responded to Senator John McCain's opposition to President Donald Trump's pick for CIA director by saying on Thursday morning that quote, "He's dying any way." That's coming from a White House official.
Sadler has since apologized, but Jim -- this doesn't seem entirely surprising. After all, it's the President who sets the tone.
MESSINA: Well, people have their own tone, too. I think that was a lousy comment, whoever said that. It was uncalled for. But do we blame the President for everything? I mean seriously. Everybody around him, he takes the blame for.
KELLY: No. But he doesn't --
KELLY: He does set the tone for the people who work under him. And since there will not be a rebuke coming from the President, then that means he condones her remark on some level.
VAUSE: I remember the days back when George W. Bush would wear a jacket -- you know, he always wore a suit jacket into the Oval Office. You know, there just seemed to be this respect for the institution which from my observation doesn't seem to be there.
MESSINA: No, I think -- I think your point is really well taken. I think when you put your shoes up on the desk in the Oval Office, that's not called for either.
KELLY: I agree with that one, too.
VAUSE: All right. And on that, thank you. Good to see you both. So Mo-Joe is back. Thanks -- guys.
Well Donald Trump has taken his chaos presidency global -- ripping up the Iran nuclear deal, rolling the dice on a meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un, imposing tariffs on China, all the while causing anxiety and fear in capitals around the world. But as Martin Savidge reports back home in Trump country, they're loving it.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Armstrong County, Pennsylvania -- an hour's drive northeast of Pittsburgh along the banks of the Allegheny River. Here the hills are green and the politics red.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans --
SAVIDGE: President Trump's tough talking foreign policy may trouble some diplomats, but not his base.
Did you vote for Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did.
SAVIDGE: How are you feeling?
RON FARSTER, TRUCKER: Great. Great. We finally got somebody with some balls.
SAVIDGE: I'm at Bench Racers gas station in Pennsylvania's Route 66, talking to trucker Ron Farster (ph), who believes for too long, enemies even allies have taken America for granted.
FARSTER: Everybody's taking advantage of the United States. We've always been cuties (ph) and gave them what they wanted.
[01:40:03] SAVIDGE: And it's shaping up to be quite a week in Trump's world -- withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran, welcoming home three Americans detained by North Korea, then announcing the time and place of a historic summit with North Korea's leader.
And Monday -- going forward with his controversial move with the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Dan Wagner loves all of it. Retired from the Air Force, he says as presidents go, Trump has become his new foreign policy favorite.
DAN WAGNER, RETIRED AIR FORCE: Reagan used to be because what he did he told Gorbachev tear down this wall. Trump is more, you down -- I'm going to smack you. And that's what the world needs.
SAVIDGE: Trump got 74 percent of the vote in Armstrong County and voters we talked to say when it comes to America's international dealings -- forget diplomacy, it's all about respect.
Brian Klingen-Smith (ph) says the U.S. has been too soft for too long. And he's not bothered one bit America is out of the Iran nuclear deal.
BRIAN KLINGEN-SMITH, TRUMP SUPPORTER: There was some bad deals made, and you know, you can't trust all these regimes that are out there. And, you know, I think he's doing what he thinks is right.
SAVIDGE: That is not what most Americans believe.
According to a recent CNN, 63 percent of those asked said the United States should not give up on the Iran nuclear deal.
Calvin Lane voted for Trump and now regrets it. Worrying that Trump has become too unpredictable.
So you voted for the man but you're thinking now maybe you shouldn't have?
CALVIN LANE: Yes, that's what I'm thinking. He's a little too reckless to be in charge of everything.
SAVIDGE: Dawn Piper has no regrets. She likes what Trump is doing. At a restaurant in Kittanning she tells the unpredictability can be a positive since it keeps opponents guessing.
DAWN PIPER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: And I think that it is a good thing to not know, you know, because sometimes the best defense is not knowing what the offense is.
SAVIDGE: Back at the gas station, I asked co-owner Chris Toliver (ph) if he ever worries Trump's words could go too far and maybe lead to war?
CHRIS TOLIVER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yes, that does worry me a little bit, the war part of it, because he does come across a little harsh sometimes. But like I said he says what everyone else was probably thinking, you know.
SAVIDGE: The reason Trump voters don't have a problem with how Trump sees the world, is because many of them see it the very same way.
At the end of these interviews, I always ask one last question which is, would they vote for President Trump again? And lately I've been noticing a trend. The answer is still yes, but some do qualify it by saying it might depend on who's running against him.
Martin Savidge, CNN -- Kittanning, Pennsylvania.
VAUSE: One of the most prestigious universities in the world is caught up in a controversy over race. A white student at Yale University called campus police and reported a black woman asleep in a dormitory common room. That woman was actually a student taking a nap and then streamed her experience on Facebook while she was being questioned. Here it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have an absolute right to document this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have the right to take my picture. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not taking your picture. This is Facebook Live.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's what we're going to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to go back to the 12th floor to finish writing my paper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's -- do you have your ID on you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Can we see that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got the police called for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- we need to make sure that you belong here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ok. Let me open my apartment for so that you can see that I belong. I don't think (INAUDIBLE) you're going to be here. I think you probably need to commit her to an institution. That's the only recuse you have for being --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be on our way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ok, great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a Yale student?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course I am a Yale student. How else would I get in here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just asking.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ok. Well, you have three other cops here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well this is protocol. And I'm the supervisor. So it's going to be ok.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know it's going to be ok. I know I'm not in trouble. My ancestors built this university. And I'm not in trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't think about that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not going to be harassed because --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't harassment, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's exactly what it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yale says campus police followed procedure but concedes more needs to be done to make the university truly inclusive.
We'll take a short break. When we come back, the Pentagon investigation into a deadly ambush of U.S. forces in Niger -- how it says the mission should have been handled.
[01:44:22] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: Multiple failures contributed to the death of U.S. troops in Niger, according to a Pentagon investigation of last October's deadly ambush.
CNN's Barbara Starr has more on how a Special Forces-led team was outgunned and overrun by ISIS-linked militants.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. soldiers ambushed by ISIS were in trouble right from the beginning. The team decided to go after a top ISIS operative but they didn't have permission to do that.
SENATOR TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: I believe that the troops who were sadly killed in Niger in October of 2017 were engaged in a mission that they were not authorized by law to participate in.
STARR: The military acknowledges the team was short on training, organized by commanders, did not have armored vehicles or the needed weapons that now commanders promise new teams will have access to.
The Pentagon promised full disclosure but it still hasn't released the full 6,000-page report, and it gave reporters its highly edited digital recreation of how last October 4th this team wound up driving right into an ISIS ambush. They were outgunned three to one.
GENERAL THOMAS WALDHAUSER, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND: Yes, it was a dangerous area. Yes, they knew the activities went on there, but they had never seen anything in this magnitude. It was a total tactical surprise.
STARR: The soldiers get out of their vehicles and start to return fire. But the ISIS fighters move around them rapidly on motorcycles and trucks with mounted heavy machine guns. The Americans are separated on the battlefield amid gunfire and confusion. There are extraordinary heroic efforts to save each other.
Staff Sergeants Dustin Wright, Jeremiah Johnson and Brian Black are overtaken by enemy fire. Black is killed. Johnson and Wright tried to stay with him but gunfire forces them to retreat.
Jeremiah Johnson is shot and can't move. Wright stops to try to help him. They are both killed.
Meanwhile, Sergeant La David Johnson keeps fighting and runs over half a mile trying to get to a safe position. His body isn't found for 48 hours.
MAJ. GEN. ROGER CLOUTIER, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND CHIEF OF STAFF: He made his last stand where he fought to the end under a dense, thorny tree.
STARR: The entire mission -- poorly planned. Local rescue forces took four hours to arrive.
CLOUTIER: The medevac aircraft that eventually withdrew the team arrived approximately five hours and 43 minutes after the initial contact began.
STARR: The brother of Dustin Wright grieving.
WILL WRIGHT, BROTHER OF DUSTIN WRIGHT: As a brother, I miss him. He's just gone. And it doesn't make a difference that, you know, I know why he was there or I know what happened. I just miss him.
STARR: But the fundamental facts do not change. U.S. military personnel were sent on a deeply-flawed mission. And once the ambush began, it was nearly six hours before medical help arrived.
Barbara Starr, CNN -- the Pentagon.
[01:50:03] VAUSE: Well next here on NEWSROOM L.A. officials in Hawaii are warning of flying boulders. It's the latest to come from this volcano crisis on the Big Island.
Back in a moment.
VAUSE: Well, Hawaii's volcano emergency appears to be getting worse, Kilauea has been oozing lava and toxic gas. Geologists are now warning steam explosions could send boulders, rocks and ash flying into the air -- anything from pebbles to boulders weighing several tons.
Volcanologist or volcanist Ivan Cabrera is keeping an eye on what's happening. Did you look volcanist up?
IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I did. It's just the way you say it. But that's ok. In my book that means it's official.
CABRERA: All right. Let's talk about -- this is the -- you're welcome. This is the latest threat here. And what you're talking about now is not the fissures that we can surely see and track a little bit better here. This is eruptive and explosive volcano stuff here. And that's what we're worried about here.
And volcanologists do tell us, in fact, that that is likely to happen because of one specific reason. But let's go through the other threats, by the way, which is still not over. The lava activity remains paused at those fissures but additional outbreaks are possible at that additional basically fissures, which is just basically another word for a long crack on the ground. And as that happens, those sulfur dioxide fumes continue to pummel the
area here. Leilani Estates specifically on the eastern of the Big Island. That's what we're talking about here.
And yes, we're on watch for an explosive eruption. So this is the lava lake. Watch the clock here, April 23 -- I'll get out of the way so you can take this in because this is dramatic stuff here.
Now, I'll put this into motion -- look at this, May 5th -- that lake has been dropping. We'll keep going here. May 6th from one day, dropping several meters and then it continues to go down. And you're thinking well, my goodness, this is great. It's going down into the ground. It's all over, right?
Well, the problem is, where it's headed is the water table. And when the lava at those thousands of degrees Celsius temperatures hits water, you've got problems here.
By the way, also the rocks along the sides of the crater continue to collapse and so now you've got rocks that are being super heated and as they hit the water, you are going to get this explosive eruption because of the pressure that continues to build up. And there it goes.
And as John mentioned here, the potential there for rocks the size of boulders coming out of this crater and going all sorts of meters in every which way which can't be predicted, right -- so that's the big threat right now. And that's what we're watching for. And we're a few meters away from this happening.
So all eyes are going to on this next threat with additional threats with those fissures that I mentioned, but this is the next thing to look for as we continue to follow this incredible volcano -- the youngest but the most active across the Hawaiian archipelago.
VAUSE: So it's the young who are the most active -- I guess. Ivan -- thank you.
CABRERA: Yes, that's the case -- teenagers, I suppose, yes.
VAUSE: Troubling. Cheers -- mate.
Ok. U.S. President Donald Trump is taking heat from critics about many issues both big and small. But now "Harry Potter's creator is sounding off on the size of the Muggle's signature. Here's Jeanne Moos.
TRUMP: It's a big one.
[01:54:51] JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not just big. It's enormous. It's colossal. It's huge, marking his territory. When it comes to President Trump's signature even oldsters won't be needing their reading glasses. "Why? Why is his signature so big?" Someone tweeted. Author J.K. Rowling responded, "I didn't believe in graphology until about three minutes ago." She linked to a site analyzing what large handwriting means.
And independent handwriting expert confirmed.
BART BAGGETT, GRAPHOLOGIST: The size of the signature correlates with narcissism, with ego, with a grandiose sense of self-importance. The size alone equals, "I'm so important. I don't need obvert margins. I can just scribble like I'm a movie star or a rock star.
MOOS: Or a president or a bestselling author? Trump supporters dug up J.K. Rowling's signature. "I guess you're no different, then."
BAGGETT: You know, it's funny, because she is throwing stones about Donald Trump, but she also has a really big signature which I think is a success trait.
MOOS: That goes for both of them. But graphologist Bart Baggett says Rowling exhibits are a fluid feminine flow while President Trump's signature looks like a hacksaw.
BAGGETT: It's sharp, angular, scissor-like Ms and Ns which basically is a lack of compassion.
MOOS: Tweeted one critic, "It looks like the result from a polygraph. He's lying, of course." A polygraph, a seismograph -- since we're comparing size, the handwriting expert signature is no shrimp or perhaps not Trumpian.
BAGGETT: It's really the epitome of narcissism.
MOOS: Internet pranksters keep changing the President's signature. When it comes to certain presidents and authors, the writing is not just on the wall, it takes up the whole wall. And it can take big hands to sign a big signature.
Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.
VAUSE: You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Thanks for being with us.
I'm John Vause. Be sure to join us on Twitter @CNNNEWSROOMLA. There you can find highlights and clips from the show.
But the news continues with Natalie Allen and Cyril Vanier in Atlanta after a short break.