Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
WH Won't Apologize For Aide's Cruel McCain Joke; Kelly: Undocumented Immigrants Lack Skills, Education; Mueller Asked Ford for Records After Cohen Pitched Company; Mueller Asked Companies for Records After Michael Cohen's Pitch; White House Not Revealing Expectations Ahead of U.S.-North Korea Summit; Vietnam Vets Group Calls on White House to Fire Aide who Mocked John McCain; When Trump Arms Himself. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 11, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, no apology. The White House refusing to condemn a White House aide's cruel joke about John McCain. So, what's so hard about saying I'm sorry?
And the president's chief of staff not backing down from comments about undocumented immigrants that some say are racist.
Plus, the president's new full-time attorney, Rudy Giuliani in court today. Only thing, the client wasn't Trump.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, stonewalling. The White House refusing to apologize or even acknowledge quite honestly an offensive comment about Senator John McCain who is battling brain cancer.
Communications staffer Kelly Sadler according to one White House official joked at a meeting that McCain's opinion doesn't matter because he is, quote, dying anyway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meghan McCain, his daughter, wondered aloud today why Kelly Sadler still had a job here at the White House. Does she still have a job?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to comment on an internal staff meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the White House not think to condemn these remarks or comments about Senator McCain?
SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you not going to apologize to Senator McCain --
SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to get into a back and forth because, you know, people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: In case you didn't catch that, Sanders doesn't want to talk about it. Even though one source told CNN Sadler called McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain to apologize about this whole thing. Still, Sanders certainly not apologetic, defended the culture inside the West Wing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a tone set from the top here where it is allowed for an aide to say he's dying anyway.
SANDERS: Certainly, there is not a tone set here. We have a respect for all Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: But Sanders later conceded Donald Trump does set the tone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he bear responsibility for the tones that you hear at the White House and all of the staffers who work here (INAUDIBLE).
SANDERS: He certainly does --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And what tone then is it that the president sets? Well, when it comes to John McCain, a brief walk down memory lane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have competent politicians not only the president. I mean, right here in your own state, you have John McCain.
He's not a war hero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a war hero.
TRUMP: He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Today, a whole lot of people had something to say about all of this, including former Vice President Joe Biden. Here's what he put in part. "People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday." Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT right now, live from the White House for us. So Kaitlan, it sounds like the White House is standing by the staffer. What are you hearing there tonight though?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Kate, they are standing by her. You heard from Sarah Sanders there during the press briefing today. Not an apology for what Kelly Sadler said about Senator McCain and not even an acknowledgment that she even made that comment.
Kelly Sadler was at work here today at the White House doing her taxpayer-funded job. It was essentially business as usual sources tell CNN for Kelly Sadler despite the fact that she has overtaken the headlines with that crass remark she made about John McCain. Of course, today during the brief, and we heard from Sarah Sanders, she seemed to signal that what she thought was the problem was the fact that conversation leaked out of a communications meeting that they had with about two dozen or so staffers, not the fact that Sadler made that remark.
And that was a lot of criticism from that briefing today was the fact the White House wouldn't even acknowledge she made the remark, just simply apologize for it and move on from there. But the White House there saying they're not going to comment on internal leaks inside the meeting. Of course, Meghan McCain, during that (INAUDIBLE) and of course I reported last night that Sadler did call McCain and apologize for the remark that she made. It's unclear what McCain's response was to Sadler but there we heard from her in the View today saying -- really raising the question that a lot of people here in Washington are also asking, Kate, which is why does Kelly Sadler still have this job here in the White House with no apology or anything else from the White House.
BOLDUAN: The simple answer seems to be because the president is allowing her to keep having that job. Kaitlan, thanks so much. Great to see you.
OUTFRONT with me now, Reed Galen, former deputy campaign manager for Senator McCain's presidential campaign, Joan Walsh is here, national affairs correspondent at the Nation, and Rick Santorum, of course, the former senator from Pennsylvania. Thank you all so much for being here.
Reed, first to you. Where do you land on all of this? Is it fair to put this on the president when this comment came from a staffer?
REED GALEN, FORMER DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: You know, I think it is for a couple of reasons. One, you know, I've been privileged enough to work at the White House for President George W. Bush, and I can tell you that, you know, he set the tone and it was one of respect and one of dignity. Not only for the people that work there, but all Americans.
[19:05:03] And I think I can tell you this that if this had happened while President Bush was in office, first you would have been marched to the Oval Office to explain yourself, and you would have been frog marched to the northwest gate. And so, when you work at the White House, you represent and reflect the president. And I think unfortunately, this is just one more reflection of President Trump.
BOLDUAN: Senator, where do you land on this? I mean, well, first to be (INAUDIBLE) probably the most important voice in all of this is John McCain's family. Here is what Kaitlan alluded to it, but here's what Meghan McCain said today. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I don't understand what kind of environment you're working in where that would be acceptable, and then you can --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MCCAIN: -- come to work the next day and still have a job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Do you think the staffer should be fired, Senator?
RICK SANTORUM (R), 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If she said it, then there should have been some discipline. As to whether she's fired or not, I don't know. There should have been some disciplinary action and they should have owned up to it and, you know, there's plenty of blame to go around here. The, you know, the person who leaked is reprehensible in my mind. Reprehensible because you leaked something that obviously is going to hurt, you know, hurt the president. It obviously is a rude and foul thing to say that we don't need in our public discourse.
So who is this leaker that supposedly works in the White House? That to me is equally, you know, atrocious. And then, look, I agree with the other commentators that, you know, the president holds some responsibility here --
SANTORUM: -- for his -- for setting that tone and presidents do set tones. There's no doubt about that.
BOLDUAN: But Senator, where is it -- is it equal though, the fact the comment was said or the fact that someone leaked it out? You think those things are equally egregious?
SANTORUM: Yes, I do because -- you know, as a commentator said all the time as we all know -- I mean, everyone's going to sit here and say, oh, no one ever says anything foul or crude at internal meetings. It happens all the time. Unfortunately, it happens all the time. And it shouldn't but it does.
And the reality is that the person who leaked it took something that was a private thing that would never have gotten out and put it out there in the public stage. And so yes, I think they are very, very culpable in this situation. They've added, you know, they've added fuel to the fire.
BOLDUAN: Joan where were you?
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Well, I think we've learned two things about this White House. Or maybe we've had two things confirmed, Kate. One is the president is a nasty man. He sets the tone at the top. He has mocked the disabled --
BOLDUAN: You think this confirms he's a nasty man? You think this is on him?
WALSH: Yes, I do think it's on him. I absolutely think that he has set a tone where somebody would be setting in a meeting in the White House and say, ha, this is funny. We can mock John McCain. Our boss ha mocked John McCain repeatedly. No problem.
So, there's that. The other side of it and I'm not going to agree with Senator Santorum, but I will point out, this White House is a snake pit. People are leaking constantly. We are having conversations about leaked comments, leaked insults. Back biting constantly.
So, it was a little bit retch for Sarah Sanders to say I'm not going to talk -- I won't dignify a leak, I'm not going to talk about a leak. But she talks about leaks -- you know, half of her business is responding to the latest, what has the president said about John Kelly. Is Rex Tillerson out the door? No. Yes, of course he was.
So she's constantly having to -- she deems to or doesn't deem to. She deemed not to today because it's embarrassing.
BOLDUAN: Well, Reed, on the specific question of just civility and politics. Call me Pollyanna, you sure can. Do you think that we have hit rock bottom here?
GALEN: You know, I don't know if we've hit rock bottom but certainly you know as an old friend of mine used to say, you know, when you worked in Washington or you worked in politics, you wore your red jersey, you wore your red -- you know, your blue jersey and at the end of f the day, you took those things off and you were opponents, you weren't enemies.
And I think we've traded those jerseys in American politics for war paint. We now see each other as enemies, not as opponents. Not as people who want to do right by the American people or best for the American people. But how do we win the zero sum game that I think Washington really has become today.
BOLDUAN: Senator, let's kneel down on this issue of the leaks. Because I know this is something you think is egregious. You don't have to look very far. It was not long ago that President Trump loved leaks. If we need a refresher, here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This just came out. WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks. Another one came in today. This WikiLeaks is like a treasure-trove.
I will tell you this. Russia if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So, is it a little retch for the White House now to say that they aren't going to be responding to any leaks?
SANTORUM: Yes. The president remained that -- candidate Trump was referring to potential legal activity that was going on. And, you know, that's a different thing. If it's a leak of that nature, you're talking about whistleblowing as much as you're talking about leaking.
I mean, here --
WALSH: His talking about stolen. Those were stolen e-mails. Those e-mails were actually stolen.
SANTORUM: This was in -- this is egregious in the sense that there was no -- what -- who benefits from this. I mean, it's just -- it's a horrible (INAUDIBLE) thing to say. It besmirches the, you know, the name of John -- or attempts to besmirch the name of John McCain.
[19:10:08] WALSH: Right, it does.
SANTORUM: I mean, it just -- and it hurts the president, it hurts the whole discussion. That's the kind of stuff that there's just no place.
BOLDUAN: No, but I think -- kind of to the senator's point, if these leaks happen so much and -- I mean, this is one example today. There's another example about coming out of the cabinet meeting with Kirstjen Nielsen.
WALSH: Right, right, right.
BOLDUAN: But when it comes to this, does the president don't then have a strong footing when he thinks everyone's out to get him?
WALSH: Well, people in his own White House seem to be out to get him sometimes. I mean, seriously there is a -- there was dysfunction from the top, it goes straight down the organization. He's beset with leaks, but I think he's created the situation where people are back biting, people have rivalries. I mean, that's true in every workplace --
WALSH: -- Kate, but this is worse than I think we've ever seen.
I just want to warn you about something. You asked about whether we've hit bottom. Never say bottom with this president. I promise you --
BOLDUAN: I won't even put it on this president. I just think the state of Washington right now is bottomed until, well, let's see, tomorrow.
Great to see you, guys. I really appreciate it. Thanks for coming in.
WALSH: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, General John Kelly under fire for saying undocumented immigrants don't have the skills to assimilate. Congressman Luis Gutierrez weighs in, next.
Plus, breaking news. Robert Mueller reportedly requesting information from a major corporation regarding their communications with the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. We'll have the details.
And, the president calls Kim Jong-un excellent. The secretary of state says the meeting that he had with Kim was warm and good. Is all this rosy talk good strategy?
[19:15:14] BOLDUAN: Tonight, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's controversial comments on immigration. The former Department of Homeland Security chief and immigration hard-liner telling NPR Radio that the majority of immigrants crossing the southern border illegally are poorly educated.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. But they're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States. They're overwhelmingly rural people. And the countries they come from, fourth, fifth, sixth grade educations are kind of the norm.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, the Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez. Congressman, thanks for coming in.
REP. LUIS GUITIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Thanks, Kate.
BOLDUAN: When you heard that from John Kelly, what did you think?
GUTIERREZ: I thought of my mom. She came with a fifth grade education. I thought of my dad, never -- didn't graduate from high school when he came to the United States. I'm very proud of them. I think they did a good job.
I think of the more than 25 members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus that Mr. Kelly said those same words to. It's almost as though we're invisible to him. He doesn't see us. Doesn't see who our parents are because he has no historical context.
BOLDUAN: Wait, Congressman, you're saying he said this. You're saying in a meeting he's repeated this exact same thing to you? GUTIERREZ: Yes, he said -- look, this is what he said at a meeting. He said, you know, we need to bring immigrants here that have college education. That speak English. It's the same mantra, Kate. It's a different spin and using different words, saying exactly the same thing that the people that are coming here don't fit into our economy, right?
Don't fit into our society. Don't easily come here. That somehow, they don't come with the educational skills when we know -- and the reason I say that there's no, Kate, historical context --
GUTIERREZ: -- think, if this was 1850 and it were the Irish, which I assume Mr. Kelly's great, great grandfather when he got here, what did they say about the Irish? You what they said, they said, oh, they're coming here and they drink too much, and they're boisterous, and they're Catholics and they're uneducated, and they come here hungry. And they really want to assimilate well, because on top of that, the only person they believe in is the pope.
That is not an exaggeration. That is -- he is using exactly the same kind of arguments that were used against his forefathers. They were wrong about the Irish. They are wrong about immigrants that come here today.
BOLDUAN: But Congressman, supporters of the president say that they don't see the outrage here and the reason why is they say he's not talking about people who are trying to come in legally. It's a legal versus illegal crossing, distinction. He's talking about people who are trying to come in the United States illegally. Do you see the distinction?
GUTIERREZ: Sure. Yes, I do see the distinction. And -- but here's the problem with the distinction. Is that he says, it -- let's take his complete conversation because we have to say, he says, well, oh, golly. If only the Congress would do something.
We did, Kate, we went to the president of the United States. Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Durbin went to the president of the United States and said, we can take care of temporary protective status. He said oh, they've been here for 20 years, Mr. Kelly said in that interview. We should find a way for them to become citizens of the United States and, you know, what their response was? The president said, they come from shit hole countries and we -- and he blew up the deal.
They even offered $25 billion to build his racist, nonsensical wall, right? This tribute to bigotry. They gave him $25 million, he said no.
BOLDUAN: Then what are you saying here? You're saying that you don't believe anything that's coming out of their mouths because John Kelly said he thinks there should be a pathway to citizenship for people under -- GUTIERREZ: I know, but you know what? That he should stand up and
stop dodging his own responsibility because he's saying that on the one hand while Steven Miller, who reports to him because he's the chief staff, is in the same room saying that they're all murderers, rapists and drug dealers, and if they're not, they're coming from shit hole countries and they don't fit.
So the first people that I thought about going back to your original question was my mom and dad. Did they come here legally? Yes, absolutely. They came here -- they were American citizens. They came here but they didn't speak the language.
They did well and so have immigrants throughout the ages. And that's what makes this a great country. It's almost as though Mr. Kelly forgets.
Now, do immigrants come here to be doctors, to be engineers, to be teachers, to be wonderful, highly educated people, yes? But you know what? You know the ones I was thinking about when he was saying that, the ones that probably came across undocumented to work in the fields and he eats the vegetables that they pick. That no American will go out and pick and he eats the fruit of their labor. Literally and figuratively.
[19:20:05] I mean, they work at back breaking jobs. And, you know what I thought also? Mr. Kelly has served with such distinction in the armed forces.
GUTIERREZ: Surely he must have seen permanent residents that is people who have not become citizens who crossed that border illegally, right?
BOLDUAN: But Congressman, you mentioned this and I keep on asking --
GUTIERREZ: -- permanent and served in the armed forces of the Untied States of America.
BOLDUAN: You mentioned this, but the White House is putting it on, when it comes to immigration policy and broken immigration system, they're putting it on Congress. They're putting it specifically on Democrats. Sarah Sanders did it just today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Democrats have got to stop playing games. They've got to stop doing this just because it's a midterm year. They still have to do their job and we would like to see them fix our immigration system.
Not only are -- is the administration frustrated but Americans are, too. Eighty percent of Americans would like to see this problem fixed. They want something to be done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: She's saying very clearly that the White House is ready to make change.
GUTIERREZ: Kate, Kate, you guys there at CNN, have very responsibly been reporting. We now know that there are already 20 Republicans who have signed on to a discharge petition so that we can have a vote on the DREAM Act. We know that there are hundreds --
BOLDUAN: Do you think -- do you put this on the White House? Would you put this on Republicans like Mitch McConnell in the Senate?
GUTIERREZ: Wait a minute, they're both -- because Mr. Kelly goes oh, golly, gosh, if they would only -- we are there. Help us get the job done. The fact is, Kate, the votes exist in the Congress of the United States to revolve the issue for the Dreamers. To resolve the issue for those on TPS --
GUTIERREZ: -- and he has to stop saying, oh, I'm on NPR, let me be real nice about those people that come here. Yes, Salvadorians that have been here 20 years have families here. You're right, Mr. Kelly. Now step up and do your job and stop shirking your responsibility and tell the president of the United States, you don't need the Congress of the United States to do a single thing. This is an executive authority in your hands. You're the ones that --
BOLDUAN: So you just think he's playing to the audience.
GUTIERREZ: Look, all I know is, he's not fulfilling his responsibility --
GUTIERREZ: -- when he comes on a radio program and he knows that the executive branch of government which he is the chief of staff too --
GUTIERREZ: -- right, is the ones that have caused for hundreds of thousand of people who are here legally in the United States. They're illegally -- and he made them undocumented and therefore eligible for deportation. So they can continue to feed this kind of cynophobic racist nonsense to their base voters. I think --
BOLDUAN: Congressman --
GUTIERREZ: -- it's -- he's got to fill full his responsibilities.
BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming in.
GUTIERREZ: He's more than talk. He's got to act. Thank you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Well, I think -- Congressman, thanks for coming in. I appreciate it.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Kate. BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, we have some breaking news coming in. Michael Cohen reportedly reached out to the Ford Motor Company to offer insight into President Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller now wants to know more.
Plus, what do American veterans think about the cruel attacks on John McCain? Do they blame the president?
[19:27:03] BOLDUAN: We're following breaking news and the Wall Street Journal now reporting another major company that Michael Cohen tried to score a big contract with in exchange for inside information about the Trump administration. According to the Journal, Special Counsel Robert Mueller learned about this in his investigation.
Let's get more on this. Peter Nicholas is the person who broke this story. He's OUTFRONT with me right now. Peter, what else can you tell us about this outreach between Cohen to Ford Motor Company?
PETER NICHOLAS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL (via telephone): Well, we know that Michael Cohen was successful in getting some companies to use him for consulting services. This is an instance where he approached the company in January 2017 not long after President Trump won the election and basically touted his proximity to the president.
Once he -- informally if he could do some work for Ford and was rebuffed. Ford decided that they need didn't these services and turned him down. What's interesting about this is, although there was no work done and there was no -- no deal was consummated, Special Counsel Robert Mueller still got very interested in it and asked to interview a Ford official who was talking to Michael Cohen about it and sought e-mails and other records. So this became part of Mueller's broad investigation into Michael Cohen and Trump.
BOLDUAN: Peter, any insight into why Robert Mueller is interested in this between Michael Cohen and Ford?
NICHOLAS (via telephone): Well, we know that Mueller has been looking into Michael Cohen's company, Essential Consultants.
NICHOLAS (via telephone): Last year, for example, Mueller's office has sought information from the pharmaceutical company, Novartis and also from AT&T, dealing with payments that they made to Essential Consultants.
So, they're looking at this company. Looking at Michael Cohen's involvement in it. They're investigating whether Michael Cohen might have committed any bank fraud or other crimes as according to people familiar with this. So it's all part of the broader investigation into Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants and how that company was used as a vehicle to receive some of these payments. BOLDUAN: Peter, thank you so much. I really appreciate you jumping on the phone. Peter Nicholas of course who broke the story for the Wall Street Journal. Thank you again.
Let's discuss this right now. CNN National Political Reporter MJ Lee is here, along with former U.S. assistant attorney for the southern district of New York, Harry Sandick, and former prosecutor Renato Mariotti is here as well.
Harry, let me get your take on this. Why do you think this seems different than what we've seen before? Why do you think that Robert Mueller is interested in this outreach between Cohen and Ford Motor Company?
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, it seems as if he's looking into whether Cohen was essentially trying to pedal his relationship with the president. Sometimes, successfully getting a contract, but also unsuccessfully. If you're looking at a scheme to defraud, even unsuccessful efforts can be relevant to the investigation because you want to show intent of the person who's involved. You want to show that something happened repeatedly, even if it wasn't always successful.
BOLDUAN: And Renato, it also raises the question, because a lot of the conversation kind of leading up to this was, that this is influenced peddling. This is what you see in Washington. It's not illegal, though it might be unsavory, if you will.
Any suggestion now that the fact that Mueller is looking into it, you think that he believes there's something improperly done here?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, we already saw from the statements that Avenatti put out that Cohen may have made some false statements to the bank. I suspect that Mueller is trying to take a look at the representations he was making to all of these people to see if he was lying to them. You know, if you lie to somebody to get their money, that's fraud and it's very simple.
So you know, that's -- that is what I think Mueller is taking a look at and he's obviously probably also trying to take a look and see what exactly Cohen promised. Did he promise a specific thing that he would do for them in the Trump -- you know, regarding the Trump administration in exchange for money, what exactly he promised.
You know, there are circumstances in which it can be illegal if you make mistakes and we know that Michael Cohen is not always the most careful person on earth.
BOLDUAN: MJ, Peter and Nicholas had mentioned this. You've got Ford now. You have AT&T. Novartis ahead of this. It just seems like the companies keep racking up that Michael Cohen either successfully or unsuccessfully reached out to get contracts offering up his insight into the Trump administration. I mean, any guess on how many companies there could be? MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: I mean, interesting that this
is actually the first example of Cohen actually not being successful in trying to get the consulting contract with a big firm as we have seen this week, companies like AT&T and Novartis, they're now showing remorse that they actually pen these deals in the first place. They basically said that was not wise of us. We should have vetted this person.
With an example like Novartis, they actually came out and said this person was not suited to give us health care policy and I think you and I would have expected that to be the answer in the first place.
I will say on the topic of Robert Mueller and the fact that Mueller was interested in this specific communication, I think the challenge that we confront every day whenever we talk about the Mueller investigation is that, yes, it's always significant when we find out new information about what Mueller is interested in.
LEE: But on the flip side of that, we also know that Mueller is casting such a wide net. You know, should it be surprising that he is interested in something about Michael Cohen, a man who has worked so closely with President Trump? It actually isn't. So what we don't know and the conclusion we can't make is whether Mueller actually was looking into these payments because there was something actually legally problematic or if it was more that he was collecting information about Michael Cohen --
BOLDUAN: Well, it's interesting, right. And this gets to the kind of a question that lingers over all of this, Harry, which is --
HARRY SANDICK, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes.
BOLDUAN: It's one thing if it kind of was swept up and casting a wide net. But do you see that this could -- where does this land in the terms of what his purview is, which is the Russia investigation?
SANDICK: Well, that's hard to know. It may have something to do with the bank accounts that are involved. You may see money coming in or coming out and if this is work being done for Essential Consultants, it may be that that bank account is one, they just want the know everything about it. It may also be that people have come forward at different points voluntarily to say, you know, I know you're investigating these issues. I'd like to tell you about something interesting that happened.
So it's possible that that's how it came up rather than through a subpoena or some kind of, you know, demand for information.
BOLDUAN: Renato, does this -- does this surprise you at all? I mean, does this fit into category that you think Mueller is reaching in any regard?
MARIOTTI: No, not at all. You know, look, we already know that this bank account had money that was going into it from a firm that's connected to a Russian oligarch. So I think it makes sense, you know, for Mueller to take a look at what Cohen was doing. See what kind of leverage he'd have over Cohen. We know that later on, he referred the case to the Southern District of New York, to the Manhattan federal prosecutors. This may be part of that case. This could be the bank -- you know, the bank fraud that we've heard so much about.
BOLDUAN: MJ, when it comes to the companies who've spoken out, and they said it was such a mistake, we haven't heard Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen hasn't really spoken out about this. Right? He's disputed some of what Michael Avenatti has put out, but none of this.
LEE: No. And you know, you have to really keep in mind how much sort of legal hot water he is in right now. Payments aside, keep in mind that there's a whole separate criminal investigation that is --
LEE: Separate from the Mueller investigation as we were talking about and as a part of that, when investigators went in and raided his home, raised his office, raided his hotel room, they took thousands of pages of records and documents and we know for a fact that they are interested in his business transactions, especially his taxi medallions business, but they also took information about the Stormy Daniels case, for example. So they have a lot of information so if I'm Michael Cohen, I'm not sleeping well at night because I don't know what information that investigators took could come back and bite me, right?
[19:35:04] BOLDUAN: I would say so.
Harry, put aside Mueller for a second.
BOLDUAN: Do you think this information, you know, about Ford Motor Company or even AT&T and Novartis, do you think that is of interest to your former colleagues at SDNY?
SANDICK: It may well be, although we're at the point where, you know, we don't know exactly what the dividing line is between the Southern District and the Mueller investigation. It seems likely that if they're both looking at Michael Cohen, there may be aspects of the investigation that go across the two offices and then there may be aspects that are specific to the Southern District such as whatever led Rosenstein to send the case there.
BOLDUAN: Does this surprise you at all that this is coming out?
SANDICK: It doesn't surprise. I think given the heat that some of the companies have taken for --
BOLDUAN: Yes. SANDICK: Being in the arrangement, at this point one might expect
that people would like to get out front of the story and not be in the position where the first couple of disclosed businesses were and to get it out and just sort of hope that it's a day two story unless people will pay attention, although we're all here talking about it now.
BOLDUAN: When it comes to Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, or the Russia investigation and Robert Mueller, it does -- it's never a (INAUDIBLE) story it seems.
Great to see all of you. Thank you so much for coming. I really appreciate you bringing it here.
OUTFRONT next, Donald Trump says he's more than willing to walk away from Kim Jong-un, but is there any turning back from all of this hype? And veterans tonight are demanding to know why a low-level White House staffer can insult a war hero and not lose her job?
[19:40:12] BOLDUAN: New tonight the White House not ready to lay out expectations for President Trump's historic summit next month with Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly the best outcome would be an agreement for complete and total denuclearization. But this is the beginning part of these conversations. I'm not going to get ahead of what we expect for that date.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: This after President Trump said it's no big deal if the meeting with Kim Jong-un isn't a success.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's going to be a very big success. But my attitude is, and if it isn't, it isn't. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT now, former director of the National Intelligence under President Obama, General James Clapper.
Thanks for coming in, General.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Thanks, Kate, for having me.
BOLDUAN: The White House today said that South Korea is not going to be part of the summit between Trump and Kim. Do you think that's a mistake? CLAPPER: No, not necessarily. I don't think required that the U.S.
be present whenever the North and the South have dialogue. And I think that's a very healthy thing. And as usually the case, when that happens, why the South will debrief us and I would expect that with a bilateral meeting between North Korea and President Trump that we will run to the same courtesy to the South, so no, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.
BOLDUAN: I want to play for you how President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been talking about Kim Jong-un just over the past day. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We want to thank Kim Jong-un who really was excellent to these three incredible people.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We had good conversations. Substantive conversations. Conversations that involve deep, complex problems. Our conversations were warm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: What do you make of this change in language that we see with the administration? I mean, is it warming up your target before you sit down to negotiate or do you think it's bad form since this is of course a dictator with a complete disregard to human rights?
CLAPPER: Well, you know -- well, I think under the circumstance, it doesn't hurt to be solicitous and try to create a positive environment as long as you don't overdo it. I doubt that any of the three detainees who were released would have said that the -- you know, the excellent treatment they got because it's pretty tough conditions there.
BOLDUAN: I mean, and the president also, speaking of language, also says often that he will walk away from the meeting with Kim Jong-un if he doesn't like what he's hearing when he's sitting down with him.
Can you game out for me what actually you think will happen if the president would walk out of the middle of the meeting? I mean, is it back to square one with North Korea or is it something worse?
CLAPPER: Well, I think it'd be back to square one. I wouldn't anticipate any military action as a result of it, but that would be quite insulting to the Koreans. Face is a big thing to them so I think it's important that there not be an air of condescending demeanor with respect to what the president says to Kim Jong-un.
Shouldn't brag about because of the bellicose rhetoric or our tough sanctions or any of these sort of thing. In other words, it is not a good thing I don't think during the meeting to rub it in as to why they're even having the meeting. I think the real reason they're having it on the North Koreans' part is because the North Koreans finally achieved whatever it is they think they needed in a way of a nuclear deterrent and now for the first time, will not be sitting down across a table from the United States as a supplicant but rather as an equal.
BOLDUAN: You know, the White House -- speaking of the White House and what they've been saying recently, the White House quoted you actually in a release defending the president's pick to be CIA director, Gina Haspel as you support her very much. But the president has also attacked you often as a leaker and according to him in a tweet, a lying machine. So they trash you when they see fit, but use your endorsement when it's convenient. What do you say to that?
CLAPPER: Well, I don't know what to say about it. On one hand, it's kind of amusing, ironic. If what I happen to think of Gina Haspel resonates with them, well, so be it. I think for me the important point is Gina and her qualifications to be the director of CIA and I'm very hopeful she'll be confirmed, so if they want to use my endorsement as a way of helping that, fine.
BOLDUAN: But, General, Senator John McCain is calling on senators to do the opposite. To reject Haspel and his reasoning is this.
[19:45:05] In his statement he said that her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying. Then saying that he believes the Senate should exercise their duty and reject her You support Haspel of course, but shouldn't she have answered that question?
CLAPPER: Actually, I agree with the way Gina answered that question because what she avoided, which I think she had to, was retroactively setting a higher moral standard for the people who were involved in the program at the time because at the time it was approved by the president, sanctioned by the Department of Justice, and also supported by those who were knowledgeable in the Congress, although I have a hard time finding anybody to fess up to that.
And so I think it was important that she not condemn retroactively with a new moral standard her own people.
BOLDUAN: We'll see what happens. The vote could come next week.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it, General Clapper. Thanks for coming in.
CLAPPER: Thanks for having me.
BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, veterans coming out to defend Senator John McCain against attacks and cruel comments. Do they blame the president for the tone? And Jeanne Moos takes a hands-on look at the president's sign of frustration.
[19:50:08] BOLDUAN: Tonight, the group Vietnam Veterans of America is calling on the White House to fire a staffer for mocking John McCain. Their statement said this, quote, "When someone in the White House says a Vietnam veteran doesn't matter because he's dying of brain cancer that individual should have his employment terminated."
How do other Vietnam vets feel? Martin Savidge is OUTFRONT. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reports of White House aide Kelly Sadler mocking Senator John McCain's brain cancer and his opposition to Trump's CIA nominee saying, "he's dying anyway," have triggered outraged and anger. Critics say such insensitivity is emblematic of a Trump White House, recalling candidate Trump's own put-down of the senator and former Vietnam War POW.
TRUMP: I like people that weren't captured. OK. I hate to tell you.
SAVIDGE: Veterans we talked to have the deepest respect for the senator that only those who serve can really understand.
JOE BRUCKNER, VIETNAM VETERAN: As a soldier, to me, he is a hero. And I don't use the word hero lightly.
SAVIDGE: Joe Bruckner was an Army intelligence in Vietnam. He says he's never forgotten candidate Trump's statement mocking McCain's 5 1/2 years as a POW.
BRUCKNER: That comment offended me as veteran and I think it probably offended every veteran regardless of his or her political leanings.
SAVIDGE: It's one of the reasons Bruckner says he voted for a third party candidate in 2016.
Kurt Mueller also served in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot. He too is bothered by the rhetoric from this administration when it comes to McCain.
KURT MUELLER, VIETNAM VETERAN: It irritates me more than angers me. I think the man has a lot of capabilities, but sometimes he just lets his mouth overload sometimes, and it's very unfortunate.
SAVIDGE (on camera): And you support this president.
MUELLER: Yes, I did. And I voted him. Yes.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): I reached Ron Helmly by phone. He did two tours in Vietnam. What does he think of Senator McCain?
RON HELMLY, VIETNAM VETERAN: I have an imminent amount of respect for him.
SAVIDGE: But Helmly like other vets I've spoken to is torn between the bad mouthing of a military hero and his like for some of Trump's accomplishments. Helmly blames today's polarized politics.
HELMLY: I am bothered with the amount of incivility in our political justice, both on the Congress and the administration.
SAVIDGE: I asked Helmly if the administration continues to attack McCain, if it might turn the veterans' support away from the president.
HELMLY: I believe it has the potential to do that because --
SAVIDGE: Kurt Mueller won't say if it would change his support of Trump but he says the administration's sordid comments about McCain violate what is a primary belief of all who serve -- respect.
MUELLER: It's a shame the feud has been going on. It's a shame for -- I think for this company for what's happening in the last period of time for McCain and what he has left in his life. To have to deal with this stuff, you know.
SAVIDGE: Any veterans, Kate, are perplexed by this. They can't understand how an administration can be so praising of members of the military yet so critical of one former member of the military. And there were some advice to the president, not to take veterans' votes for granted. They say that respect and support in their minds must be earned and maintained -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Respect across the board is a good lesson these days especially tonight.
Great to see you. Thanks, Martin.
SAVIDGE: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Coming up next, he may have a poker face, but does President Trump have a tell? Jeanne Moos on Trump's big reveal.
[19:57:48] BOLDUAN: Arms crossed. It's the president's signature move.
Here's Jeanne Moss.
JEANNE MOSS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some tend to think of President Trump as a man you better not cross. But there he is, crossing his arms.
TRUMP: And I think it's a disgrace.
MOSS: In a very un-Trump like gesture.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a negative defensive gesture.
MOSS: As the author of "Famous Faces Decoded" noted --
DAN HILL, DECODING EXPERT: But his shoulders hunched together, it's extremely unusual for Trump to make himself look smaller than he is.
MOSS: Normally his gestures are expansive, assertive. But it seems frequently --
TRUMP: And my performance --
MOSS: -- President Trump's been performing with arms crossed.
TRUMP: Didn't say what that congresswoman said. Didn't say it at all.
MOSS (on camera): Crossed arms even made it on to the list of the 10 worst body language mistakes to make in an interview.
(Voice-over): Arms crossed over your chest signaled defensiveness and resistance. When an expert like Dan Hill watches the president reacts to that FBI raid.
TRUMP: Democrats. All, just about all.
HILL: Underneath all the bluster and the anger is also a real sense of being under siege.
MOSS: When the president had to listen to a Democratic governor argue against arming teachers --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Packing heat in first grade classes.
MOSS: -- his crossed arms weren't just defensive.
HILL: But it's also dismissive. He shows contempt on his face.
MOSS: Comedians have their own theory.
TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": I think it's so cute that whenever Trump is out of his depth, he gives himself away with that little hug that he gives himself a comfort.
MOSS: It's become so common Alec Baldwin has worked the gesture into his "SNL" impersonation. The crossed arms even inspired a parody product.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a president who's unrelieved?
TRUMP: No, get those lights off. Off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are his arm movements a danger to those around him? Then we've got a solution. The straight jacket suit for presidents. It looks just like a regular suit. No one has to know.
MOSS: It has a way of tamping down the president's --
TRUMP: Fire and fury.
MOSS: Jeanne Moss, CNN.
TRUMP: Why don't I just fire Mueller?
MOSS: New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BOLDUAN: I feel like I have no idea what to do with my arms or my hands right now.
Thanks for joining us. Have a great weekend. "AC 360" starts now.