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House GOP Leaders Take Questions Amid Leadership Drama; Explosive Eruption Overnight Prompts Evacuations in Hawaii; Senator John McCain Releases New Book After Cancer Diagnosis; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 22, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: If it isn't, then we have a huge gap in our investigation. Christine?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) your opposition to the discharge petition. What (INAUDIBLE)?

RYAN: Yes, I mean, obviously we have members who are backers of the discharge petition who are really upset at the other members who brought down the farm bill over this issue. So we clearly have members at opposite ends of our spectrum who are frustrated with one another. That can happen in Congress. That can happen in a big majority party.

It is our preference obviously to have a process where people get the kind of votes they're looking for, but that maximizes the opportunity and the chance of actually making law.

I can guarantee you, discharge petition will not make law. So what's the point? I think we should have a process that actually has a chance at making law and producing a bill that the president would support.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your response, Mr. Speaker, to the suggestion that this discharge petition and what happened on Friday shows that your leadership is failing and that you need to step aside?

RYAN: Look, the members drafted me into this job because of who I am and what I stand for. I think members very much agree that what we should be doing is completing our agenda and our work. Look at what we're doing just this week. Right to Try going into law. Dodd-Frank reform going into law. On the way to going into law rebuilding our military and prison reform.

That's four things just this week. So our members realize what we want to do is act on our agenda, improve people's lives, and having a divisive leadership election at this time would prevent us from doing that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question.

RYAN: OK. I don't know. Who do you --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: NBC affiliate -- RYAN: Sorry. Yes, sorry. OK. I'll get the guy with the badger

lanyard. I'm sorry. I don't know he --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Gallagher mentioned ZTE. This is a company that Congress thinks is a threat. The administration is nearing a deal with China on this.

RYAN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And Marco Rubio has been on Twitter this morning suggesting that China is out-negotiating the United States. Are you -- do you feel that way? And do you think this --

RYAN: I wasn't watching Marco's Twitter-feed this morning. Sorry, I can't comment on that. But I'm not a party to the administration's talks with ZTE. Clearly there are concerns with ZTE from our intelligence community and those have to be taken into consideration, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I want to go back to the leadership issue because there was --

RYAN: I figured you would.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There was a report this weekend that the White House and Mr. McCarthy and you have pushed back on this obviously. Wanted you out of the speakership. We have talked to people who have obviously pushed back on that but they've also again brought up concern about the Farm Bill, the discharge petition, and I'm just wondering are you -- how certain are you that you are going to --

RYAN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you say confidently you will be here throughout --

RYAN: Look, obviously I serve at the pleasure of the members. Those are the people who drafted me in this job in the first place. But I think we all agree the best thing for us is to complete our agenda and not wedge into the middle of the completion of our agenda divisive leadership elections.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Let me be very clear that I read that report. The report is not true. They brought it to me. It is not true. You're building something into a Farm Bill we have to pass by ourselves because it's work requirement. If I remind people, the last Farm Bill, when we went to move it, failed at the beginning as well. So I think you're building something in that's not out there, but I understand the job you have to do.

I just think if you look at what we're doing this week, from Dodd- Frank reform becoming law, Right to Try becoming law, NDAA, prison reform, it's a clear example that none of that is true.

RYAN: Last time we had a farm bill was that first time as well. Way it goes with farm bills. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The majority leader --

RYAN: Did you go to Wisconsin?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes.

RYAN: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: New York.

BERMAN: Speaker Paul Ryan and the majority leader Kevin McCarthy wrapping up a news conference right there. At the end there, they were dealing with some internal questions that there had been reports that White House officials and Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader, were scheming to get Paul Ryan --

(CROSSTALK)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Out early.

BERMAN: -- early. They're all denying it right now. You be the judge.

HARLOW: You decide.

BERMAN: Joining us now is CNN political commentators Alice Stewart and Symone Sanders.

And, Symone, before that point, there was something that's fascinating. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, just basically gave his full endorsement to the House Republicans and the administration officials who have been pushing the Department of Justice for information, documents and evidence in the Russia investigation, including information, documents and evidence and maybe even the identity of this confidential source. Paul Ryan endorsing that, how do you respond, Symone?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it's dangerous. What folks don't understand about a FISA application and the court through which you go to do achieve a FISA application is that it goes through so many layers and levels. And so to assert that there was misconduct going on as an indictment on the FBI, as an indictment on the DOJ, and again, these are all the same folks who many of them backed up Director Comey, then Director Comey, when he allowed himself out there with the press conference, assailing Hillary Clinton's character and conduct.

So I just think this is a waste of, one, our tax dollars and, two, this was a Democratic president doing this, the Republicans in Congress would not be going quietly into the night.

[10:35:02] This is a breakdown of the Republicans. I think folks should be concerned.

HARLOW: Go ahead, Alice. ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If I can just say, I think

it's really important that we let this investigation play out. I have full confidence in the federal investigators with regard to the FISA process and how they're going about obtaining information. At the same time, I do believe that Congress needs to have some oversight on this. And if they need certain information to give them confidence in the way this is playing out, that's exactly what needs to happen. And that's why they're having -- making this request, but we need to make sure there are no leaks and that the identity of the source is not released.

HARLOW: Look, the word choice Paul Ryan chose deliberately this morning is wholly appropriate, it is wholly appropriate for all of this to be happening in this way.

Let me get you both on a stunning moment we just saw play out here. Our Manu Raju spoke with detective of secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, coming out of this election security meeting this morning. And he asked her, do you have any reason to doubt the intelligence community's 2017 report on Russia meddling in the election, finding two important things.

That they did so at the direction of Vladimir Putin to help aid in the election of Donald Trump. Quote -- here is what Secretary Nielsen said. "I do not believe that I have seen that conclusion. That's the specific intent was to help President Trump win. I'm not aware of that."

So two things here, Alice, either she didn't see it, which is concerning, or she saw it and doesn't believe it. What do you make of that?

STEWART: I make of this that she works directly for President Trump and he strongly believes that any attempt or any conversation or any inclination that Russia swayed the election in his way is frustrating to him. And he doesn't like the investigation. He feels it undermines his -- the legitimacy of his victory and that's what he has said from the very beginning, that's what he continues to say today.

But in my view I think we all need to sit back and let the investigation play out and let the facts lead where they --

BERMAN: Right.

HARLOW: These are the facts that have led to this report.

STEWART: Right.

BERMAN: Well, the FBI director says that they stand by this intelligence, the DNI says the same and all the intelligence officials do. And, Simone, you know, it is stunning to me, the secretary of Homeland Security, and this is an agency that deals very much in election matters, in security matters. The secretary of Homeland Security saying, you know, I either am completely ignorant of this fact or I disagree with it. SANDERS: Yes, I think she was threading the needle there to say that

specifically she did not read in a document the straight-line between Putin and the election meddling and Donald Trump, which I think, you know, I think that that is in those documents.

Look, I think any assertion here that if the White House and its administration officials were to actually acknowledge what happened in this -- in 2016, that Russia did meddle in our election, and possibly to help the president, acknowledging that in my opinion doesn't necessarily undermine the legitimacy of the presidency unless you are complicit in what went down. Now that is a whole another story which is why we have a special counsel.

HARLOW: Alice Stewart, Symone Sanders, thank you, both, very much on all of that news that just came in.

We're going to take you next to Hawaii. Wait until you see these pictures, yet another eruption, lava now burning through a power plant on the big island.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:42:19] HARLOW: So officials in Hawaii have now shut down a power plant after lava has started to sweep through it. Authorities are telling people on the big island they have to be ready to leave with little to no notice.

BERMAN: Yes. Our Scott McLean is there on the scene with the lava behind him.

Scott, give us the latest.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John and Poppy. Well, officials here, they are trying to mitigate any danger when it comes to that geothermal power plant. Again you can hear one of those explosions from a nearby fissure in the background. The concern is that if the lava gets too close to that plant, that there could be a chemical explosion or chemical steam emitting from some of those wells.

But believe it or not, there's only been one injury so far from the Kilauea volcano. And it's from this fissure that you just heard there. One that is violently exploding. It looks like a giant sparkler. A man named Darryl Clinton, he was protecting two homes, only about 100 yards away from that violently exploding fissure. We spoke to him actually before he was injured and he told us about how he was spraying down the lava rocks that hit the house with a hose or with buckets. And also how he avoided getting hit himself. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DARRYL CLINTON, RESIDENT: Look up and watch them. Keep your eye on them. It's almost like catching a football, but you don't want to catch this football.

This lava bomb came and hit right here, the ones that we're concerned about. These ones are the ones that catch the ceiling on fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLEAN: And, John and Poppy, just a day after we shot that interview, Darryl Clinton got hit with a lava bomb the size of a bowling ball on his leg. His ex-wife who luckily was there to take him to the hospital, said it was so hot that it seemed to cauterize the wound on his leg. It also started a fire on his porch. I do have good news to report and that's Darryl Clinton is in the hospital and is expected, though, to make a full recovery.

HARLOW: Wow.

BERMAN: Scott McLean for us in Hawaii.

HARLOW: Unreal.

BERMAN: Scott, stay safe with those explosions going on all around you.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. The story behind John McCain's new memoir, which is out today, what he thinks about his career -- his career so far and what he still wants to accomplish.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:48:55] HARLOW: Senator John McCain's new memoir hits book shelves today, the title "The Restless Wave." And when he and his co-author started writing this book it was going to be all about foreign affairs and national security.

BERMAN: Then McCain was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer and obviously everything changed.

Our chief political correspondent Dana Bash sat down with McCain's co- author Mark Salter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There are more partisan, more tribal --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain wanted to give this speech about Senate dysfunction before his brain cancer diagnosis last summer. Then longtime aide, speechwriter, and friend Mark Salter got a call from McCain with a sudden urgency.

MARK SALTER, LONGTIME MCCAIN COLLABORATOR: Are you coming out here? What's the story? And I said, yes. Here's what I want to say in the speech. And I said, have you gotten the results back? You know? What is it? He goes, it's not good.

BASH: Salter rushed to Arizona. They finished the speech on the flight back to D.C. MCCAIN: What have we to lose by trying to work together?

SALTER: They all stayed in their chairs for his speech. That had never happened in his career and it meant a great deal to him.

BASH: McCain and Salter were already working on their seventh book together, which instantly took a reflective turn.

[10:50:04] SALTER: He wanted to be more personal, and to convey just how fortunate he believed he was for being able to serve his country for 60 years.

BASH: The result, "The Restless Wave."

MCCAIN: I want to talk to my fellow Americans a little more if I may. My fellow Americans, no association ever mattered more to me.

BASH: This book allows McCain to tie up some loose ends, publicly admitting for the first time that during this 2008 presidential run, Joe Lieberman was his first choice for his running mate.

BASH (on camera): We all knew it covering him, but him saying it, it's a whole different thing.

SALTER: His aides, among them myself, had persuaded him that it wouldn't be possible.

BASH (voice-over): They told McCain putting a Democratic-turned- independent on a Republican presidential ticket would spark a convention revolt.

SALTER: He wanted to pick Joe Lieberman but he has never expressed any regret, not privately nor certainly publicly, about picking Gov. Palin.

BASH: McCain also explains being approached in 2016 with the now- famous dossier about Donald Trump.

SALTER: He went over to see the FBI director at his earliest convenience and delivered it to him and said, I assume you will vet this.

BASH: "I discharged that obligation and I would do it again. Anyone who doesn't like it can go to hell."

SALTER: I wrote that but he said it just that way.

BASH: During his nearly four decades in Congress, McCain sparred with presidents in both parties, but makes clear his concerns about Donald Trump are fundamental, writing, "The world is learning to live without our active leadership. That's not good for the world and it won't be good for us."

A Vietnam prisoner of war for five and a half years, brutally tortured for most of it, McCain wants this book to be a guide for standing up for oppressed people around the globe as he's done for decades. SALTER: He goes to Burma and he meets with three guys who had been

political prisoners for 20 years that had just been released from prison. And when he started to speak one of them just started to cry because they had heard his voice on Radio Free Asia so many times, defending them by name.

BASH: For over 30 years, Salter has helped McCain convey his essence.

(On camera): You've written a lot of words for and with John McCain. What do you think the most important are?

SALTER: "We were born to love and we were born to have the courage for it. So be brave. The rest is easy." I thought that was the most McCain-esque thing he ever said.

BASH (voice-over): That or maybe this in the final chapter.

MCCAIN: We need each other. We need friends in the world and they need us. The bell tolls for us, my friends.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: That of course is a reference to "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Earnest Hemingway, McCain's favorite book. And the end of McCain's new book, "The Restless Wave" is Hemingway-esque. And I'll read you some of what I'm talking about.

He said the following, "It's been quite a ride. I've known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fight in war and helped make a peace. I've lived very well and I've been deprived of all comforts. I've been lonely as a person can be and I've enjoyed the company of heroes. I've suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exaltation. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times," John and Poppy.

BERMAN: It is so remarkable to hear those words, even read by you.

HARLOW: In his voice.

BERMAN: But to hear his voice, you know, read those chapters so deeply moving and there is a story behind that, Dana.

BASH: That's right. That is that as soon as they -- he got the diagnosis, and they changed largely the first chapter and the last chapter of this book to be more reflective, to say the things that he wanted to say about himself and about the country, as soon as that was written, he recorded those two chapters and only those two chapters of this book because he wanted to do it while his voice was strong enough to do so. You can hear -- he sounds different, but certainly at the time he was strong enough.

HARLOW: Yes. You do hear that, that wavering. It's been months since he's been back in Washington, back in the Senate, a body you cover so closely. How do you feel his absence there?

BASH: Well, certainly it's just a different place without him kind of storming the hallways, you know, screaming in his passionate way about things that he cares about. One of the things that Mark Salter said to me, which I actually thought was quite interesting, is just what happened last week with the vote on Gina Haspel. She was now the CIA director.

HARLOW: Yes.

BASH: He wrote a statement saying that he opposed her because he has spent his life because he was tortured so brutally and he said it didn't work that he didn't think anybody who has had that experience, professional experience, should have the job. It didn't work.

[10:55:01] And what Salter said to me is it's one thing for John McCain to put out a statement, it would have been another for his colleagues to look at him and defy him on an issue of torture.

HARLOW: Dana Bash, thank you for that. It's pretty amazing to hear all that from Mark.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right, still more celebrating, the newlyweds, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I suppose, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex now.

HARLOW: Exactly.

BERMAN: This morning -- this is Buckingham Palace, we're waiting to see them. They're going to be honoring Harry's father, Prince Charles, at a charity event for his 70th birthday. This is the first public appearance for the Duke and Duchess since the royal wedding.

HARLOW: They delayed their honeymoon for this. That's how much they wanted to -- the 70th birthday --

BERMAN: It's a good daughter-in-law right there.

HARLOW: It is indeed. Thank you all for being with us today. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Duchess Kate Bolduan starts now.