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Trump Slams "Disgusting, Illegal and Unwarranted" Probe; Officials Condemn Kim Threat on Summit is Reality Check for Trump; Inside Year One of Mueller Investigation. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired May 17, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- on the one-year mark of the Mueller probe. He writes, "We have had the most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history." That's the latest. This as the president is also grasping on a "New York Times" report that delves into the early days of the FBI investigation and the Russia probe. And he claims his campaign was spied on. That's not what the report says. The president, though, insists it is bigger than Watergate.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani claiming that the Mueller team says they will not indict the president because they cannot indict the president.
Our Jessica Schneider joins us now with much more on that. Jessica?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John and Poppy. Rudy Giuliani's basing that conclusion, not only on what he says Mueller's team has told the Trump legal team, but also really on guidance that was issued by the Justice Department in the Nixon administration and also renewed during the Clinton administration. And that guidance really says a sitting president cannot be indicted but really the fact is that doesn't end the inquiry since the Supreme Court has never weighed in on this issue, but nevertheless, Rudy Giuliani getting his message out, directly perhaps to the special counsel. And of course this being the one-year anniversary of when the special counsel was named.
Over the past 365 days, there have been quite a few developments, twists and turns and also a number of charges. In fact, 75 criminal charges in all have resulted in this year-long probe that's against 22 people and companies, that has so far amounted to five guilty pleas, one person sentenced and interestingly, the guilty pleas include former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn as well as deputy campaign manager Rick Gates. Both of whom are cooperating with the special counsel. So on that one-year anniversary, though, Giuliani is still speaking out and he's saying not only can the president not be indicted, but he can't be subpoenaed either. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: We're going to see what kind of legal remedies are available to us, including if they subpoena us, challenge the subpoena. The same reason they can't indict him, they can't issue a subpoena to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: All right. So, to take you through some of the logic there from Rudy Giuliani, so the special counsel, he says, could only force a subpoena to investigate a crime of great significance. But Rudy Giuliani's reasoning, the president can't be indicted then there is no crime of great significance to even pursue. So, a bit of a roundabout legal analysis there, but nevertheless, providing pushback against any consideration by Mueller's team of issuing a subpoena to the president. And, of course, while President Trump is calling this a witch-hunt, Giuliani says that he will use this one year anniversary in some way. John and poppy, he wants to push the special counsel to disclose how much money is being spent and also perhaps mark this one- year anniversary by actively beginning any negotiation of any possible presidential interview. Guys?
BERMAN: Jessica Schneider for us in Washington. It is notable, this is clearly the message that Rudy Giuliani wants to send, and these friendly interviews on Fox News, the president sending his own message on Twitter, at the same time the president will not hold a news conference today with NATO which had been expected. Why? Because perhaps he doesn't want to face actual real questions about the Russia investigation.
HARLOW: And two days and no White House briefing too.
BERMAN: Two days - and I think we may hear the White House briefing today. That may come up but the president himself clearly not wanting to face the tough questions on this. And one other point, the Mueller team doesn't have a public response because the Mueller team does not leak. We're now one year into the investigation and our Sara Murray joins us now with an inside look at that investigation one year in. Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. The Mueller investigation carries on and I think there were a lot of people who were involved in this probe. Lawyers, witnesses, that kind of thing who thought and it would wrap up by this summer. And now, they're beginning to think that that is a lot less likely that this could go on. We know that Mueller continues to call in witnesses. He continues to bring people in to speak before the grand jury. And as you point out, all of this is going on this critical mission with relative silence from Mueller's team.
This is not a guy who is out there holding press conferences to talk about his work. Instead, he arrives pretty nondescriptly to the office every day by 7:30 a.m. in the morning. And he and the rest of his workers sort of toil away in what have been described as a pretty nondescript government building and a pretty drab one on the inside. You know, witnesses are brought in. They're in conference rooms with mismatched chairs and office furniture that kind of looks like it came from an office supply store. They're offered water, but, you know, there is no real refreshments there. And if you're an employee who works there, the situation is not a whole lot better. They pop out during the middle of the day and go to the food trucks, there's a lunch room there that we were told smells vaguely of hot pockets. And this is where bureaucrats are working day in and day out to try to move this Russia investigation forward, the one that obviously bothers the president so much so that he constantly declares it a witch-hunt.
HARLOW: The message again from him this morning. Sara Murray, thank you.
[10:05:00] Let's talk about all of this. With us, CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero and CNN contributor Garrett Graff, he's written a fascinating new piece "The Making of Robert Mueller" in the current issue of "Wired" nice to have you both here. And Garrett, congrats on your piece, it is fascinating talking about the time and the impact Vietnam had on him during the war. One of the things we heard from his new personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, Garrett, is that, look, you know, the -- you can't indict the president, but you can write a report about him as if this is, you know, a fifth grade essay or report if you will. For someone who has delved into the past and what has been formative for Bob Mueller, if Mueller thinks that the president crossed the line, what do you think that report would look like?
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, we have some good historical examples including Ken Starr's original report that sort of kicked off the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, that this is not necessarily that new information. We have known about these DOJ guidance from the Nixon administration and the Clinton administration before and we have sort of every reason to believe from Bob Mueller's background and his, you know, almost 50-year career in the Justice Department that he wouldn't disobey or go against the standing DOJ guidance, that it is sort of the outcome for presidential level information was always going to be a report that gets turned over to the deputy attorney general that then in turn is supposed to be turned over to Congress.
BERMAN: And, Garrett, though, the point -- these reports can be tough. And these reports can lead to things like say, impeachment, which is a pretty big deal.
GRAFF: Absolutely. Yes, and -
BERMAN: Go ahead.
GRAFF: Yes, and they can be incredibly detailed and that's probably a key way that the president hopes to move information out into the public sphere.
BERMAN: So, Carrie, the point that Rudy Giuliani is making - one of the points he's making, arguments, and it is a legal jump here. Is it - well, if you agree the president can't be indicted, and, you know, there is a debate about that, but even if you stipulate that he can't be indicted, well, then you can't subpoena him either. He's not subject to any subpoena. Any legal rationale for that?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well - so, John and Poppy, it is important to keep in mind that these are arguments and these are arguments that the president's counsel is making. None of this with respect to whether or not the president can be indicted, whether or not the president can be compelled to appear before the grand jury, none of that is settled Supreme Court precedent. These are based on historical memos, interpreting, going back to the federalist papers and constitutional roles of the president and what he can be compelled to do.
And so, as we think about the Justice Department precedent that exists, and these legal memos that the office of legal counsel memos or memos that were written by prior independent counsel, it is important to keep in mind that those are historical and those are -- were not written with this particular factual scenario in mind. So my question is whether or not this special counsel, in this environment, given the potential criminal charges that might exist, has conducted their own independent legal analysis.
HARLOW: Garrett, Rudy Giuliani back on Fox News this morning suggesting that Mueller's team and Mueller himself would not want to get in a fight with Giuliani and the president's legal team over a subpoena. Given all of the research you did, and the reporting you did for your new story on Mueller and "Wired." Do you think he would be at all worried about a fight with Rudy Giuliani?
GRAFF: Not at all. This is -- as you said, I dove into Bob Mueller's very formative experience in Vietnam. And when you go back and when you look at that time and you talk to people who knew him then, and knew him now, he really sees sort of everything that he's conducted in life paling in comparison to the stress that he faced leading men in combat in Vietnam. And sort of he used to joke darkly as FBI director even after 9/11 amid the terrible crucible of that time inside the Justice Department. Hey, I'm still getting more sleep than I ever did in Vietnam. And I think Bob Mueller probably is sleeping very soundly even today.
BERMAN: Well, again, to that point here. How do you think he's reacting to what he's seeing from Rudy Giuliani going on and doing his muscle flexing interviews saying I'm way tougher than the lawyers were here before? You know, I'm telling Robert Mueller who is boss. What do you think Mueller thinks of all that?
CORDERO: I think he probably (CROSSTALK) don't pay any attention to it, really, John. He's not -- the former FBI director is not one who is going to pay attention to TV interviews. He's going to pay attention and his team of experienced prosecutors and investigators is going to pay attention to the facts, the investigative steps that they're taking and the legal arguments that they might need to make in court.
HARLOW: Garrett, let us get your take on the -- you know, the president's read of "The New York Times" big story this morning on the early days of the FBI investigation, the Russia probe, because his read is that, oh, this is the FBI spying on the Trump campaign, and that's bigger than Watergate.
[10:10:09] It is actually not what the report says at all. It talks about how meticulous the FBI was early on, a government informant meeting with people like Carter Page and Papadopoulos who were on the Trump team in the early days and how careful the FBI was, Garrett, to keep a lid on all of this and to get none of this out before the election. What do you make of the president's read?
GRAFF: Yes, that's actually the thing most striking to me about that "New York Times" article is just how carefully the FBI avoided any leak or damaging information about this Trump investigation before the election. Sort of the fear that it would impact the campaign in any way it was very real, very present among the FBI investigators. And they went really out of their way to keep this a close hold until after the election. And that is sort of -- goes against this presidential narrative over the last year that the FBI has been out to get him, this is somehow a bashed in, pro-Clinton propaganda that was sort of bending every rule in sight to personally attack him. What we actually see increasingly is that the FBI did just the opposite.
BERMAN: Carrie Cordero, Garrett Graff, thank you so much for being with us, appreciate it.
CORDERO: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. Stepping forward, an anonymous source now reveals why Michael Cohen's bank records were leaked. We'll tell you the reason why just ahead.
HARLOW: Plus, reality check, this morning U.S. officials say that is how the president is viewing Kim Jong-un's threat to pull out of the historic summit.
And a red alert in Hawaii, noxious gas, steam, ash and lava, spewing still from the Kilauea volcano. We're live on the big island.
[10:15:55] HARLOW: The anonymous source who leaked Michael Cohen's financial records to the press is coming forward. A law enforcement official tells "The New Yorker's" Ronan Farrow that he was the source and he was motivated to leak Cohen's financial records after he saw the two documents, documenting suspicious financial transactions, had just disappeared from a government database.
BERMAN: CNN's MJ Lee with us now to lay out what's going on here. MJ?
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, what we're talking about here are suspicious activity reports and these are reports that banks are supposed to file to the Treasury Department when they see suspicious activity. Now, we know that one of the banks that did this is first Republic bank. This say bank that, remember, Michael Cohen used to set up a bank account for his shell company, Essential Consultants. This is the bank account that he used to pay Stormy Daniels and also received a lot of money from various companies.
Now, a law enforcement official is now telling "The New Yorker's" Ronan Farrow that the reason he decided to leak some of these reports to the press is because he noticed one day that two of these reports appeared to be missing and he was alarmed to learn that these were missing. Here's what Ronan Farrow said on "New Day" this morning about the significance of all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE NEW YORKER:" It is possible that prosecutors we talked to and people experienced the database we talked to said that for instance the southern district of New York or Special Counsel Mueller went in and said please quarantine these, restrict them in some way. But what I would highlight, Alisyn, is every expert we spoke to said that almost never happens. They didn't know of a procedure for doing that. So if indeed that's the case, it suggests that there is something very, very sensitive in these remaining reports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: Now, this law enforcement official also says the fact that these reports went missing should be a huge red flag. Here is a part of what he told Ronan Farrow. He says, "I have never have seen something pulled off the system. That system is a safeguard for the bank. It is a stockpile of information. When something is not there, that should be, I immediately became concerned. That's why I came forward. Why just those two missing? That's what alarms me the most."
Now, just in terms of how he's doing personally, given all of this breaking news, he says to say I am terrified right now would be an understatement. He also said this is a terrifying time to be an American, to be in this situation, and to watch all of this unfold. So clearly, acknowledging here that he knew that he was taking a big risk.
HARLOW: By coming forward. MJ, also, yes, you've been talking to your sources and we have learned that Mueller, Bob Mueller, the special counsel, has issued a subpoena for one of the social media directors. Is that right or someone who's working on the social media team - for the president?
LEE: That's right.
HARLOW: What's happening?
LEE: Yes. Roger Stone, of course, is a long-time confidant and friend of Donald Trump. He also worked on his 2016 campaign as an adviser. We're learning now that Robert Mueller and his team have issued subpoenas to Jason Sullivan. He was a man who worked as a former social media adviser to Roger Stone. Mueller, of course, we know has cast a very wide net, we know that he is very interested in talking to a number of former Trump associates and that he is interested possibly in connections between Roger Stone and "WikiLeaks" founder Julian Assange.
Now, Roger Stone told CNN yesterday that this man, Jason Sullivan, only worked for him for two months and he said as far as I know, all of his social media activities were perfectly legal. Now Roger Stone also tells me this morning that as of today he still has not been contacted by the Mueller team. BERMAN: And, of course, that's so interesting because oftentimes you don't ever contact the target and given how tied up he is in the whole thing, you would think maybe at this point Mueller would have reached out. Who knows? All right, MJ Lee thanks so much.
HARLOW: U.S. official saying this morning that North Korea was likely posturing when it threatened to pull out of the planned summit with Trump but it has been a reality check for the president. So, what is his next move?
[10:24:13] HARLOW: U.S. officials now say North Korea's threat to cancel that planned summit was President Trump next month is just Kim Jong-un posturing. They do not think that the jeopardy is in meeting.
BERMAN: American teams are in Singapore, looking at locations right now for the talks. They have been not been told to step down so far, but officials do say that this is something of a reality check for the president.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, do you see this as posturing, just posturing from Kim Jong-un and no jeopardy to the meetings?
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: John, let's be clear. There is going to be bumps along the way. Kim Jong-un is not a reliable person. So we do expect we're going to find problems. We need to pursue diplomacy. We need to do it in the smart way, because that is the only way to successfully resolve the North Korean crisis. So, I think the president's team is right not to make too much of this, but recognize that they're going to have a rough road ahead of them in negotiating with Kim Jong-un.
[10:25:14] HARLOW: Moving on to the president's lawyer, his newest addition to the legal team, Rudy Giuliani. He's been on TV a lot lately. He went back on Fox this morning. And he's saying over and over again, look, the president can't be indicted, the president can't be indicted. All Mueller can do is write a report. Well, you know it still up in the air whether the president can be indicted, but Mueller can write a pretty scathing report if he thinks the president has crossed the line and that can lead to impeachment of the president. Why do you think that Giuliani keeps focusing on indictment, indictment, indictment? Do you think this is a diversion tactic? What do you think he's trying to do?
CARDIN: I have no idea what's in his mind. All I know is they do try to distract from the need to have a thorough, complete and independent investigation as to what happened with Russia's engagement here in the United States. So they do try to distract. One thing is clear no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. This is -- that's the hallmark of our system of government that we are a country of laws, and accountability. So no one is above the law.
BERMAN: Well, the president, though, isn't above impeachment. The Constitution is pretty clear on where the accountability is for the president of the United States. And that's Congress. Do you think that there is any merit to this notion that a president can't be indicted?
CARDIN: I think the most important thing is to allow the Mueller investigation to go unimpeded. Let them draw the conclusions and then we'll see where that leads. There are areas in which anyone including the president of the United States can be held accountable. I don't want to get ahead of where Mr. Mueller is. He's been very professional. Clearly the White House is trying to interfere in that investigation. That is -- by the way they comment about it, by the way they try to discredit the investigation. To me, that is wrong. We have an independent Department of Justice and this is an independent investigation. Let it come to its conclusions.
HARLOW: The New York Times has a deep dive this morning on the early stages of the FBI probe here. And part of it outlines how a government informant spoke with some Trump campaign advisers like Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. And then details the extent to which the FBI was so careful to keep a lid on this, not to let any of this information out ahead of the election for fear that it would influence people. Do you think the FBI should have put more of this information out before the election?
CARDIN: Poppy, understand their sensitivity in interfering in an election. Clearly, they did not have enough information to draw any conclusions in regards to the Trump campaign itself. So I think they did the right thing in not making any announcements. Where I was disappointed is, of course, what they did to Hillary Clinton, where they made an announcement shortly before the election that they were reopening with information they received. That had an impact on the election. But I think as a general rule, the policy of the FBI is to try to keep their investigations in house, so it does not interfere with elections.
BERMAN: You think Hillary Clinton should have been given the Donald Trump treatment, in other words, if you're trying to compare the two. Though let's be fair, may not be apples to apples here. They could be completely different things. One of the things that allies of the president are pointing to is this notion that Poppy brought up, that a government informant met with Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Now, again, allies of the president have been on social media all morning suggesting that there is something nefarious about this, that this constitutes spying on a campaign. The president actually tweeted about it also. Does this constitute spying on a campaign, the likes of which we should be concerned about?
CARDIN: Not in the least. What this is is how investigators do their work. This is standard procedures to try to get the information you need to see whether laws have been broken. So that's a normal process. The fact it was kept strictly confidential shows that they were not trying to impede public opinion as it relates to the election itself. But if they would not have done that, then they would allow -- because it is a presidential election to interfere with doing their work, and they can't let any of that interfere with doing their work.
HARLOW: Let me ask you about how you think this all relates to the Democrat strategy heading into the midterms because Senator Amy Klobuchar in the great state of Minnesota spoke this week to the Senate for American Progress. And here is something she said that struck us, quote, "I promise you," talking about the obsession with the president and warning Democrats against it, "I promise you if that is all we do is follow him down every rabbit hole, that's not how we change the country, that is not how we change well-being." And I think you could extend that and say that's not how we win elections, right, in her view. Can Democrats -- is she right and can Democrats resist the rabbit holes?