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Explosive Eruptions At Kilauea's Summit; Mueller Investigation Hits One-Year Mark; Gillibrand Passing Sexual Harassment Bill. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 17, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:33:28] JOHN KING, CNNHOST: Covering this volcanic activity on the island, Scott joins me. Scott, what do we know?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. Well, we know that there has been this explosive eruption at the main crater of the summit of Kilauea and it is sending a massive ash plume into the air. And authorities are saying that it is expecting to -- expected to blanket the area in ash. The last time this happened just two days ago, the ash was nearly half an inch thick. It is not clear whether this explosion is any bigger or around the same. We're still trying to find out that information.

But the local authorities are saying that this could perhaps reach Hilo, which is a, you know, an hour drive from where this crater is. The winds right now are blowing in southeasterly direction, which is actually into a lot of places that are inhabited.

In fact, we were just in the southeast where you're seeing a lot of those fissures open up in the earth, you know, sending out that sulfur dioxide gas. And on the way there, it was quite cloudy when we are in that direction, the southeast, and it is not clear whether that's from the crater, from the explosion, from something else. But we hadn't seen that before, and, you know, that it was quite foggy ahead and that's all you could smell is just that rotten egg smell.

It is raining here, so I'm not sure whether that's putting, you know, a damper for lack of a better term, on this ash plume, but -- and visibility is quite low. So it's not exactly clear to me at this point how big it is. I'm trying to get in touch with my contacts on volcano. But as you know, it's just after 6:00 in the morning here, and the one woman that I called who lives in volcano was just waking up and she was worried about making sure that her water tanks didn't get contaminated.

I was the first to alert her. She said that she thought she heard something when she was sleeping but she wasn't sure exactly what it is. As you know, people here, they are on edge. They are waiting for the big one.

Of course, they are used to earthquakes which have been happening constantly for the past two weeks. They are expected to continue to happen, and they are used to the odd explosion, eruption, inside the main crater at Kilauea, but they're not used to earthquakes of this volume and they're not used to explosions that are this big and send this much ash into the sky.

So a lot of people right now are doing what they can to prepare, to cover things, expecting that there's going to be ash, to make sure that things are on the ground in the event of a big earthquake. The big one, the possibility that there could be these massive boulders, you know, the size of a refrigerator, the size of a car, going some a half a mile, smaller rocks going even further. That is definitely in the back of people's mind here, John.

KING: Remarkable development Scott McLean on the ground. Get back to us when you get more information on this again, the Hawaiian volcano derogatory warning. President is in the big island to shelter in place because of an eruption in Kilauea. Scott McLean, appreciate that reporting.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back again, today is the one-year anniversary of the Robert Mueller appointment as special counsel. Republican say, wrap it up. We'll give you a little historical context on prior investigations and just how long they ran.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:332:31] KING: Welcome back. Disgusting, illegal, unwarranted, that's how President Trump today describing the special counsel investigation. He also calls it a witch hunt. All of that on Twitter of course, part of a deliberate effort by the president and his allies to paint Robert Mueller as a rogue prosecutor, bending the rules and the norms as they say, to target the president.

The facts though, tell us something actually quite different. Let's take a look at where we are. By the numbers, we know that Robert Mueller has interviewed at least 42 people. That's what we know. It's probably a much higher number. Twenty-two people and companies have been charged in the Mueller investigation. He has 17 lawyers at least working for him. This is what we know from public documents and has secured five guilty pleas in that one year on the job.

Let's take a little bit more at some facts. We now know but we didn't know a year ago. We know about that June 2016 infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians who promised Donald Trump Jr. dirt. And Hillary Clinton, we didn't know that a year ago. We didn't know that George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign advisor, knew during the campaign that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

And we know Michael Cohen was talking to the Kremlin about Trump organization projects during the campaign. We didn't know that a year ago. We also know a lot more about Russia's meddling on social media, what they were doing and how they were doing it. We know there was a FISA, meaning an intelligence warrant, on the Trump campaign, a Carter Page. We didn't know that a year ago.

And we know Donald Trump Jr. was texting private working on Twitter with WikiLeaks during the campaign. We didn't know that a year ago. Now, one year is a long time, a lot of Republicans are saying. Well, let's go back in history. The Clinton/Whitewater investigation and its several incarnations ran seven years. The Iran/Contra investigation has special counsel, it ran seven years. The Valerie Plame leak, independent counsel, four years. So Robert Mueller has been at it one year. Some of these prior investigations went a whole lot longer.

So the question now is, will it wrap it up? A lot of Trump ally were saying, yes, there's nothing there wrap it up. Listen to this answer from Kellyanne Conway, the president's counselor. She doesn't say there's nothing there. She just says, it wasn't on my watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I don't know Carter Page or George Papadopoulos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

CONWAY: And if somebody finds some picture where I was in the room with George Papadopoulos and 100 other people, great. Let me explain for the cameras again, I was the campaign manager for the winning part of the campaign. I saw Carter Page on a different network tell the anchor, I've never met Kellyanne Conway. I don't know these two people. If this happened, it happened earlier on if you're talking about Page and Papadopoulos.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: If this happened, it happened earlier on, is a hell of a lot different than witch hunt, illegal, unwarranted. What was that?

[12:40:04] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, Kellyanne Conway is a smart woman. And I think she understands that it's important to distance herself from what's going on because this is, as she pointed out in that clip, a real investigation in which they are looking at real things that likely occurred around her. And people are pleading guilty to your point just a few minutes ago.

So yes, I mean, there are people in this White House who publicly, for the president's benefit, will repeat witch hunt, illegal, all of that stuff. But privately, they're trying to protect themselves and cordon themselves off from this investigation because it's expanding and it's touching a lot of people. And also interestingly, I think a lot of Trump folks are realizing how much they didn't know about things that were going on around them in a very chaotic campaign.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. I mean I think this is very Trumpian disowning. Also it's like classic him to say, oh, no, I don't know those people, they got coffee or what have you. It's important to note also that Papadopoulos and Carter were both -- they've gotten for false statements not for collusion. So I think that's an important point. And actually Kellyanne is pointing out that she's distant her -- distant herself is more convince to me than their actual indictments. But something else might be going on here. I'm surprised by this.

KING: And I was getting into this again. A lot of Trump allies attacking Trump himself, the president and his allies attacking Robert Mueller. I just want to read from the Weekly Standard because I think they get it just about right here. Special Counsel Mueller is everything we value in a public servant, honest, competent, utterly averse to partisan hackery. He has done valuable work, and we repeat, the deputy attorney general was right to appoint him. But it has been a year of acrimony. If Donald Trump and his aides received help from the Russian government to win the election, American should know it and offenders should stand trial. If they did not, or if such a thing can't be proved, Americans should be told that too. The hour is late.

I'm not saying hold down today. I'm not saying close up tomorrow. But essentially making clear, this is the president of United States, whatever your politics, Democrat or Republicans, the president of United States at some point in the relatively near future Mueller is going to have to be accountable.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I don't think that Robert Mueller thinks any differently. I mean his life right now running this investigation is not a great one. You know, he may not be out here holding press conferences. He may not be out here speaking publicly. But he is well aware of the media scrutiny he is under. He is well aware that this is a president who has taken aim at pretty much every level of the Justice Department who has considered firing Mueller as well as his boss.

And I think that he is probably high on the list of people who would like to bring this investigation to an end. But he's not going to do that until he finishes his investigation. And I think that that is one of the hard things for the president and his aides to grapple with because you can't just bring your conclusion to this because you'll throw a temper tantrum on Twitter. These are serious people who are conducting a serious investigation. And they want to make real sure that if they have something, they have it nailed down. And if there is nothing, that they can come out and say that in a report.

KING: And again, Robert Mueller, former FBI director, Vietnam veteran, a pro's pro has been at this for one year. Republicans used to love Bob Mueller. A small group of them now think he's gone rogue or anything.

And look at the numbers. We don't know the latest spending. We'll get it relatively soon from Bob Mueller's files about every six months that was a report in the expenses $7 million as of December. The Clinton investigations cost $83 million adjusted for inflation. Iran/Contra investigation, $81 million. Valerie Plame investigation, $3 million. So again, yes, Robert Mueller should not be doodling and taking his time. But no, this is not a rouge special counsel way out of the norms who past investigations, not even close.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. And all the reporting we have seen recently indicates that the special counsel is really into the meat of the substance of the investigation right now, not that they're wrapping anything else -- any time soon. The question I have is, you know, the president and his allies on the Hill have been saying, time to wrap it up, time to wrap it up. What do they do when he doesn't? Because it doesn't look like he's going to. What we're seeing is, Chairman Devin Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee who's a top ally of President Trump he is really cranking up the heat on this. He is trying to sort of show or put the Department of Justice in the position where they would be held in contempt of Congress, can mean for documents that DOJ is not comfortable giving over. But it's really creating this crack in the House Republican Conference right now.

And I've actually talked to Republicans who were not comfortable when he went out there and said, we should hold Sessions in contempt of Congress. And so, I just think that it will be interesting to see how far Republicans are willing to go to get this to wrap up and what other Republicans do to fight back, if anything.

KING: Because they don't know, just like we don't know, they don't know what Mueller knows. And so, a lot of these Republicans getting out there on the limb, when we find out what Mueller knows, they may be in a tough position.

As we go to break, just quickly, my mom used to say, you may lose your temper when you're nervous about something. Here's the president over the past year, witch hunt, 41 times on Twitter, collusion 52 times, obstruction 33 times, Mueller at least 8 times. There you go.

[12:45:00] When we come back a Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand pulls out the rule book. He's trying to force a vote a Sexual Misconduct Bill. Will anyone now stand in the way?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to Capitol Hill. Now, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand out of patience with the man who run the Senate and digging deep into the rule book to try to get her way. Gillibrand has been marking the days on her Twitter feed 100 days now since the House pass its version of version of the sexual harassment legislation. The Senate version is stalled. And Gillibrand trying to force action through what is known, if you follow the Congress close Rule 14 which allows skipping committee debate. She says, the vote should be a no-brainer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Once again a problem is scaring us right in the face and we are looking the other way. Enough is enough. We should do better. We have waited a hundred days and we should not have to wait any longer.

[12:50:00] So I urge my colleagues to do the right thing right now to support this bill. Fix the system here in Congress that is failing our staffers on this issue of sexual harassment. This one is as easy as it gets.

KING: A Republican leadership aide, remember Republican runs the Senate, she's a Democrat from New York. A Republican leadership aide telling CNN Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will allow her use of Rule 14, which means the bill gets on the Senate calendar. But it will not be brought up for a floor vote, the leadership says. What is happening here in the sense that, this is, A, Gillibrand has every right. It has been a hundred days since this is an issue roving the country, one would think Congress could do its part. But there are separate issues where you have Amy Klobuchar and Roy Blunt I believe, it's a bipartisan group, trying to negotiate and compromise brand. And she jumping ahead of our (every) Democratic colleagues here too?

BADE: I mean, I think Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand are on the same page and that they want to see this institution change the way it feels the sexual harassment on the Hill, and I think that there are, clearly, some people in the Senate who are afraid of what this would mean. I mean, a big pillar that they're pushing, Democrats and Republicans in the House too, is that members of Congress would have to pay, use their own money, to pay for any settlements of people who have accused them of wrongdoing.

And there's been a lot of resistance to that. We saw Blake Farenthold, for instance, just yesterday, said he's not going to pay back of $75,000 he had to give to a former aid who accused him of sexual harassment. He has resigned. Paul Ryan has said you need to pay that money back. Even Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the time to do it and he's refusing to do it.

So I think there's a lot of resistance to this. I think eventually, obviously, the country has, if there's a movement right now and so. The Senate at some point is going to have to come to grip with the 21st century, and I think it's only a matter of time.

KING: Look, if they want to have a lawyers in the room, that's all fine, but -- so their biggest objection is that, they might be held personally accountable for personally egregious, reprehensible behavior, yes?

HAM: I mean, this is one of issues where you can --

KING: Yes.

HAM: -- you can argue about the (inaudible) of the policy and said what exactly is going through the senate, what exactly was going to make it through. It is just straight up garbage that we have to pay when they do bad things. And that is the point of resistance, and they should get over that and move on because that's just irresponsible as I cares.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't understand was like looking at this Blake Farenthold situation thing, oh that went well, this is how things should continue

PHILIP: Right, but it's the Senate and they want to run it the way they often the way they always have run it. I mean and it is a male- dominated chamber, frankly. I mean, the Senate and the House, still very male dominated, and they are going to resist efforts to hold male lawmakers predominantly accountable.

KING: Let's us -- as we continue, let's just put on the screen, these are lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct in recent months, I want to know. Some of them have denied this and there's some investigations going on. But we have a list of Blake Farenthold, you mentioned, Trent Franks of Arizona, he left, Al Franken of Minnesota, he left, John Conyers of Michigan, he left, Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania left, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, left.

And so they had to go when the issue became public, but looking forward, why is this so hard? Congress exempts itself from just about every law it passes about wages, hours work and everything else on this one, more transparency, an open process that protects victims who come forward, and yes, hold accountable people who have reprehensible bad behavior even if they have to pay themselves. Why would, you know, hello?

BADE: It seems like a no-brainer, right? And that's why I think, eventually, we will see change in the Senate. I mean, the Senate has been a lot slower on this. The House was out front on this. They made changes as soon as Harvey Weinstein, you know, hit the news and people started talking about this. But the Senate -- just remember, a couple years ago, female senators couldn't even use the pool that male senators could use because male senators -- some of them wanted to swim in the nude and they didn't think, you know, they should have, you know, first chance to do that.

But there also just recently we saw Senator Duckworth obviously had a baby and she's now allowed to bring her child onto the floor. That was a change that was made on behalf of women. And so, I just -- it's going to take time, but you're right, it's a no-brainer and it's going to change.

KING: It's election year. You think that might feed down before there -- before some of them are held accountable by the voters, just a thought. OK, but attributors, we go to break. Where do you get the newest royal couple as a wedding gift? A gift from the Trump is on the way.

We'll tell you what it is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:53:28] KING: Topping our political radar today, President Trump's plan news conference to NATO's Secretary General this afternoon, no longer happening. One reason, a White House official telling CNN prevent questions about the Mueller investigation. The official says the news conference might also undermine prospects for the plan North Korea summit. In other words, the staff doesn't trust the President.

And a royal wedding gift from the White House. Presdient Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump will be making a charitable contribution in honor of the royal wedding. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have named seven charities they hope will receive contributions in lieu of traditional wedding gifts. Political leaders were not invited for the big royal event this week.

Thanks for joining us in "Inside Politics" hope to see you back at this time, tomorrow, we're waiting. The White House briefing, it starts any minute. Wolf will bring you that, he picks up our coverage right now.