Return to Transcripts main page
Questions of Presidential Authority on Investigations; Man Admits North Korean Women were Tricked into Fleeing; Kilauea Enters Phase of More Violent Eruption; What Pope Francis Reportedly Told a Gay Man; Trump Escalates Attack on Russia Investigators; Inspector General to Expand Surveillance Probe; President Trump Welcomes New CIA Director; Trump Meets With FBI Department of Justice Intel Leaders; Sources Say North Korea's Harsh Rhetoric May Kill Summit; U.S. To Impose Sanctions on Iran. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired May 22, 2018 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:11] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour, the investor's now under investigation after Donald Trump accused the FBI of spying on his campaign. The department of justice has referred the matter to the inspector general.
Plan B after pulling out of the nuclear deal, the U.S. says it will crush Iran with sanctions unless it agrees to sweeping (inaudible) demands.
And, first came the flows of lava, now the volcano erupting on Hawaii poses a new deadly health risk.
Hello everybody. Thank you for being with us, I'm John Vause. This is now the second of three hours of Newsroom L.A.
Over the weekend he made the demand, by Monday he got it. The department of justice has agreed to ask the inspector general to look into the president's accusations that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign for political purposes.
Critics say this is a direct assault by the president on the independence of the justice department. Jim Acosta has more.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, arrived at the White House for what officials insist was a prescheduled meeting, but it's clear what's on the president's mind.
While he's not answering reporters' questions about it, the president is complaining that he was spied on before the 2016 election. Ranting about the presence of a confidential source working inside the Trump campaign.
Tweeting, "I hereby demand that the department of justice look into whether or not the FBI or DOJ infiltrated, or surveilled, the Trump campaign for political purposes and if any such demands, or requests, were made by people within the Obama administration."
While the confidential source did speak with Trump campaign advisors, U.S. officials have told CNN the confidential source was not spying on the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think that's actually a very disturbing assault on the independence of the department of justice and I think when this president, or any president, tries to use the department of justice as kind of a private investigatory body, that's not good for the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Before his meeting at the White House, Rosenstein relented announcing the justice department's inspector general will investigate the president's accusations. Saying in a statement, "If any one did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action." That came as a disappointment to Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM SCHIFF, TOP DEMOCRAT, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I have to say I am concerned with some of the comments of the deputy attorney general suggesting, 'well we'll look in to find out whether there's any legitimate concern about a politically imbedded spy'. They know that's nonsense and I hate to see them say anything to give it credence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: The president's conservative allies have been hammering the justice department's oversight of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller's investigation for months. Even Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, was labeled a danger to Americans over the weekend on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: The single most dangerous person to the agenda of President Trump, the Republican Party and ultimately to all Americans is the Attorney General of the United States himself, Jeff Sessions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And, the president is continuing his attacks on the Obama administration, taking jabs at former CIA Director, John Brennan. Tweeting comments from a conservative commentator.
"John Brennan is panicking, he has disgraced himself, he has disgraced the country, he has disgraced the entire intelligence community."
That was before the president travelled to the CIA to welcome the agency's new director, Gina Haspel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Most especially I want to thank you, the dedicated men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is a true honor to stand here today, before the most elite intelligence professionals on the planet Earth; nobody even close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: But, the president took time to give a shout out to House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Devin Nunes, who has led the GOP charge in Congress to investigate the Russia investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: A very courageous man - - he's courageous, Congressman Devin Nunes, thank you very much, Devin, for being here, appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: The White House says Chief of Staff, John Kelly, will be setting up this meeting for key law makers like the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Devin Nunes, to review this classified information about this confidential source. That meeting, we're told, is expected to happen at the end of the week.
Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
VAUSE: Our political commentators are joining us now. Dave Jacobson, Democratic strategist and John Thomas, a Republican Consultant.
Okay. Here's a little part of Jake Tapper's reporting on what's sort of going on behind the scenes.
"CNN has learned the president's aggressive move is part of a new strategy pushed by a loose and informal group of advisors outside the White House. Part of a push to paint the president as a victim of a deep state conspiracy, the campaign in about convincing Trump-friendly media, and the president himself, to take a more adversarial position towards Rosenstein and the FBI".
But, you know as the president has said over and over, and over again, he has done nothing wrong - - nothing to see here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [01:05:05] DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: There has been no collusion - - no collusion. They all say there's no collusion and there is no collusion.
I can only say this, there was absolutely no collusion.
There was no collusion with Russia, other than by the Democrats, but there has been no collusion. They won't find any collusion, it doesn't exist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, Dave, again if the president's done nothing wrong and there's no collusion, then why does he need to undermine the credibility and go on the attack against Rosenstein and everybody else?
DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it looks as though he's hiding something, right? and, I think this scorched earth approach that he and his outside advisors are executing on, I think is an attempt to not only undermine the Russia probe, but to change public opinion.
Right now CNN put out a poll, just a couple of weeks ago, 70 percent of Americans believe that Donald Trump should meet with Bob Mueller and answer the tough questions. 84 percent of Americans want Bob Mueller to put forward a comprehensive report with all the facts on the investigation.
He's trying to change public opinion by coming out with sort of scorched earth, bare knuckle tactic strategy to undermine the Russia probe. So that people think that it's not credible.
JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: But the issue is not whether Trump did something wrong or whether Trump colluded, the issue is he's saying whether or not the campaign was spied upon illegally. And, this is something you'll remember Trump was bellyaching about a year ago, that he had a source . . .
Well, we'll see because in fact there was an informant, or somebody, who was spying on the campaign and then reporting information back to the government. Now, the question is did somebody authorize that in the government?
We don't know all the facts, so that's what the deputy attorney general's trying to get to the bottom of.
VAUSE: Here's part of an op-ed in the Washington Post and it's by a former FBI agent, which is a commentator of CNN, as well, because already this push by the White House has outed one FBI source.
"Relying on a covert source, rather than a more intrusive method of gathering information suggests that the FBI may have been acting cautiously - - perhaps too cautiously, to protect the campaign, not undermine it. Ironically, the FBI's apparent attempt to protect the campaign by investigating Russia's efforts quietly is now being weaponized against it."
VAUSE: So, all the reporting we have from everything which is out there, it seems that you know at worst this is regular practice by the FBI to send someone - - an informant, out there to gather information. You know, and they try to do it on the quiet, because all of the fallout from what happened with Hillary Clinton.
JACOBSON: Well, it's a double standard, right? Like, Donald Trump is saying that the FBI was corrupted because they were, quote, "spying on his campaign", which by the way, it was like three meetings that - - there was no like imbed inside the campaign you know, watching Donald Trump and his advisors make decisions.
On the flipside, you have the FBI skewering Hillary Clinton throughout the course of the Presidential campaign. Once during Comey, the former FBI Director, his original press conference and then secondly, putting out that notice just days before the election, undermining Hillary Clinton's campaign, potentially leading to her losing the election.
None of that happened to the Trump campaign, even though now we know that the FBI knew about the Russian meddling in the election and their favoritism towards Donald Trump months before the election.
VAUSE: You know, John, the old saying goes, if the facts are against you, argue the law, if the law is against you argue the facts, and if the facts and the law are against you, pound the table and yell like hell. This kind of sounds like that.
THOMAS: I can see how you would think that, but there's also the impression that - - hey, if there was an abuse of government authority to imbed a spy without a proper process in place . . .
Well, there's somebody inside the campaign asking . . .
. . . asking questions and then reporting back to the government . . .
VAUSE: You could say it was an informant, it was you know, someone - - a whistleblower, whatever.
THOMAS: Whoever that whistleblower informant came to be, he was an asset of the U.S. government. And what was the process? What were the checks and balances in place to make sure that it wasn't an Obama justice department looking just to snoop in on the Trump campaign? VAUSE: I mean, just think of the language, the Obama justice department.
Up until this president and - - since Nixon, up until this president, the department of justice was independent and there was a firewall between the two. And there are concerns, Dave, that basically getting the department of justice to direct the inspector general to look into this, that firewall is breaking down big time.
THOMAS: Well, Comey was concerned about that same firewall on a tarmac meeting with Loretta Lynch.
VAUSE: That was wrong then.
VAUSE: And this is wrong now.
JACOBSON: Right. Donald Trump came off looking like a dictator today. Dictating to his justice department, and to his top law enforcement agency in the country, to do his bit.
THOMAS: I don't see what the harm is in getting to the bottom, if there was - - what's the problem?
JACOBSON: Here's the difference. If they came up with that independent of the president dictating to them, or directing them, to do it that's one thing.
[01:10] Having the president inject himself into the DOJ, or the FBI, is totally unprecedented and hasn't happened before since (inaudible).
VAUSE: Then, there's also this, never miss an opportunity for some fund raising.
The Trump campaign sent out an email, "Worse than Watergate. This could be the greatest political scandal in American history. I need you to sign your name right this second to join me in demanding this abuse of power gets investigated."
Once it's filled out, then directs over to a fund raising page, but you know, John, the language here. It's like turning the language and the words that are often used to describe the president against the people who are investigating it.
You know, 'worse than Watergate', that's what so many people have said about this administration. Abuse of power, I get, but so many people have said about this administration. It seems very calculated. THOMAS: Sounds like a smart political speech to me. I think both sides would do it, if the cards were turned and they truly do feel that there was an abuse of power in this process.
So, I think it's fair for them to use the language and both sides have fund raising emails at the ready to say that they're using this as a moment - - they use any point in the news cycle as a moment to raise money.
VAUSE: Dave, I missed the fund raising email from the Clinton - Lewinsky investigation.
Did they raise money off the Lewinsky scandal?
JACOBSON: No, no, no - - I mean, maybe, I don't think so.
THOMAS: That's how they won critical house seats, called direct mail.
JACOBSON: But look, both parties like ring the fire alarm. Almost every single day I get a barrage of fundraising emails from Democrats and Republicans, because I'm on all these lists.
And so, look, sure it's a politically advantageous opportunity for the Trump campaign to try to capitalize on this, I just think it's unethical. That's the difference.
VAUSE: Okay. Well, stay with us because President Trump is set to meet with the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, Tuesday. All of it's coming as there are growing doubts that the U.S.-North Korea summit will actually take place next month.
Ivan Watson, live in Seoul.
Ivan, amid all of these doubts about whether or not Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump will actually set down and have this summit. The Vice President, Mike Pence, is adding to those doubts by repeating a threat the president made last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: You know there was some talk about the Libyan model last week. And you know, as the president made clear you know this will only end like the Libyan model ended, if Kim Jong- un doesn't make a deal.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS: Some people saw that as a threat.
PENCE: Well, I think it's more of a fact. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So, quite a statement there from the vice president. We know that the North Koreans are very concerned about what happened in Libya, so how are they likely direct to this?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it just shows that whatever kind of warming of relations and the kind of kinder statements that were coming from the Trump administration, coming from Pyongyang, that we seemed to have hit some rough waters, in what had been a kind of charm offensive from both sides, John.
Where, you know, just a week or so ago, President Trump was welcoming home three U.S. citizens who'd been released by North Korea and had kind words for Kim Jong-un and now we have thinly veiled threats being issued. This coming after North Korea started harshly criticizing the U.S. and South Korea for conducting joint air defense drills, known as Max Thunder.
Their annual drills, North Korea says it could be preparation for a possible invasion. North Korea's been kind of beating up South Korea in recent days. First, inviting South Korean journalists to North Korea for a ceremony and now, rescinding evidently that invitation.
So, the diplomatic warming that we'd seen in recent months, again, it's hitting a rough patch and it's raising questions about the expected summit in Singapore next month. Where you're going to have - - or we were going to have the first ever meeting between a U.S. President and a North Korea leader.
VAUSE: Okay. Ivan, thank you.
Ivan Watson, live for us there in Seoul, appreciate that.
Back to Dave and John. You know, further to what we're hearing from Mike Pence about you know making all these threats, there's also this reporting in the New York Times, and CNN has confirmed it, that there's now great concern by Donald Trump that this whole summit with Kim Jong-un could end in basically a huge embarrassment if there is no deal.
But you know, John, this is everything that the president was told when he grabbed onto that offer of a meeting with Kim Jong-un all those weeks ago. That you know, this is not what presidents do because it could end badly.
And, it's now taken this long for the president to realize that?
THOMAS: I don't think that - - I think it's obviously a concern of his, but it's not like he's waking up for the first time realizing this, but look, with great reward can come great risks, as well. And, the fact that I think what we're seeing here is North Korea is just being Trump to Trump.
This is part of an ongoing negotiation and yes, it's high stakes - - there's no question about it, but I think this is just the first of many steps in a negotiation before they even ever set down to have some table stakes.
VAUSE: To paraphrase the former Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, you go to high stakes nuclear negotiations with the president you have, not the president you want.
JACOBSON: Yes, totally. I mean, look, you have two irrational actors, both of which are temperamentally unfit to be in office, both of which act like dictators. And, here's the calculus for Donald Trump, right? You're right, there's a big potential reward and I think on a bipartisan level, like all Americans should want peace on the Korean peninsula, right?
VAUSE: It's a good thing to have.
JACOBSON: It is a good thing to have. The challenge is there's a way to go about it, right? And you have your secretary of state and you have your high level state department officials negotiate a concrete coherent plan before you go into the meeting, right?
So, you're just sealing that deal, you're just shaking hands and doing a photo op at the end of the day. The challenge is, there were no preconditions, there is no parameters that are like the U.S. is outlining that North Korea has agreed to and that is the challenge.
So, either A. if the meeting doesn't happen, it's embarrassment for Donald Trump, or B. if the meeting does happen, but we don't have peace at the end of the day, that's also equally an embarrassment.
VAUSE: And also, a lot more dangerous than the situation was I guess before.
I wanted to ask this very quickly because we're almost out of time, but we now have Trump Tower meeting, the sequel. The New York Times reported that there wasn't just that one meeting, in June 2016, where every Russian in New York happened to be there in the summer.
In August - - the following August, there was a meeting with Don, Jr., and representatives from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. No one really knows what the hell this means, apart from the fact that Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater, basically perjured himself in front of Congress.
But, Dave, what's the significance of this from your point of view? And then John, after that.
JACOBSON: I just think it's striking that for the first time in modern presidential politics you have a political campaign that seeks outside influence from other countries, outside of America. I mean, first of all, if you want to get opposition researchers, we have the most talented political consultants in the world.
VAUSE: Two of them are right here.
JACOBSON: Right. Two of them are right here, right? I think we can all agree on that, right John?
So, why are they like reaching out to other countries, whether they're adversaries like Russia, or allies like Saudi Arabia? Like, they're equal, like they're both foreign entities that shouldn't be injecting themselves in a place . . .
THOMAS: I mean the Hillary Clinton campaign hired Christopher Steele, who is you know not an American, right?
No, but my point is not an American. So, there's talent outside of America . . .
VAUSE: But not good talent, obviously.
THOMAS: Clearly not good talent, but look, just because somebody had a meeting - - I mean, I get pitched on a daily basis about the latest wiz-bang technology and often times it comes from other countries. I typically try to avoid those meetings because they're usually a waste of our time.
I think what you saw there is amateur hour, quite frankly, where Don Jr. was taking meetings he shouldn't have taken. They appear inappropriate at best, but they're probably just a waste of his time.
VAUSE: Yes. I guess, you know, if you're theory is true, then everything else that goes along with it just adds to what looks like a very suspicious picture. But, I guess this is what Mueller's to find out.
THOMAS: Yes, he'll sort it out.
VAUSE: Unless he gets fired.
THOMAS: Let's hope not.
VAUSE: Dave and John, thank you.
Okay, short break.
Coming up here, the U.S. is vowing to crush Iran with sanctions. How Tehran is responding to that, that's up next.
Also, what a gay man says Pope Francis told him and whether that might represent a change in Catholic Doctrine.
[01:21:37] VAUSE: Well, after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. has announced plan B and that involves putting new pressure on Iran, threatening to crush it with sanctions and military pressure, unless Tehran changes its behavior.
Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced those sweeping demands on Monday. While this came two weeks after the president scrapped the deal. These demands include ending Iran's ballistic missile program, releasing American detainees and stopping Iran's support for groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and we will crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanc to dominate the Middle East.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Iran's response to all of this, 'don't tell us what to do'.
CNN's European Affairs Commentator, Dominic Thomas, joins us now.
Dom, thanks for coming in. I guess one thing which isn't surprising about all of this, is that Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is one of the few world leaders who's publically thrown their support behind these plans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We believe this is the right policy. We believe it's the only policy that could ultimately guarantee the security of the Middle East and peace in our region. And, we call on all countries to follow America's lead here, because Iran is an aggressive force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The only problem right now is that you know Benjamin Netanyahu is behind it, but no one in Europe seems to be supporting this deal. And, you know, what happens to those U.S. sanctions? Can those unilateral sanctions have the same impact - - although multilateral sanctions that brought Iran to the table?
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: There's so much up in the air now than where the segment started off, Donald Trump is the person the Israeli Prime Minister's been waiting for in the White House.
This policy, this aggressiveness, the language of Pompeo of crushing, it's not just an outgrowth of the George W. Bush regime change, this is taking to a whole different level. We saw this kind of rhetoric with North Korea, we see it now with Iran.
I think, obviously, the European Union situation is a complicated one. The deal was something that they unambiguously supported and hoping to maintain access to Iran, engagement with Iran, while also protecting trade deals.
But having said that, there are a couple of things. First of all, the European Union is not the individual countries that are the members of the European Union. Who are facing their own domestic issues and who are concerned about a potential trade war and retributions from the United States.
Should they not conform with Donald Trump's expectations, trade with the U.S. far exceeds that with which they are engaged with the Middle East and yet, instability in this area of the Middle East is of tremendous concern to Europe for so many obvious reasons.
VAUSE: So, in this situation, though, if the Europeans want to try and make this deal work and that is what it looks like at this point in time. They do have other options if the U.S. slaps secondary sanctions on European businesses and companies that do business with Iran.
They've done it before in the 1990's, they went to the World Trade Organization, they wrote legislation that basically got them around U.S. sanctions on companies in countries that did business with Libya and Cuba. So, there is that option, I mean, it remains to be seen if it could work.
But, do you get into a situation where Europe and the U.S. are essentially at a stage of an economic war over Iran?
THOMAS: Right. Economic war, political war, foreign policy, we are beginning to see patterns emerge, obviously, in the way in which the White House is conducting foreign policy.
President Trump has never been a supporter of the liberal Democratic values of the European Union. He clearly doesn't value the Atlantic relationship. He's offended the British Prime Minister, he's offended other European leaders, most notably, Angela Merkel.
We see him going into this situation in Iran, aligning himself with Israel, with certain Gulf State countries, Pompeo provided a long list of potential allies. So we see a dramatic shift, really, in the way in which the U.S. has conducted itself with these various powers.
Having said that, there are fractures in the European Union. Recent elections in Italy, Hungary and so on, that point to some of these divisions and one has to wonder whether or not the European Union will be able to maintain this position going forward.
Secondly, with Donald Trump, I think things have changed dramatically in terms of the will of this president to resort to retributions against these countries around trade, and so on, that could have a serious impact. He's done this at the United Nations by keeping tabs on countries that don't vote along with the U.S. and is not afraid of offending these partners, and of causing greater divisions and fractures in the European Union.
VAUSE: At the U.N., they didn't get invited to the end of year parties that the U.S. was stating, as well as a few other . . .
THOMAS: Yes, the German ambassador, recently appointed you know to Germany, came explicitly out with instructions to people.
VAUSE: Don't do business with Iran because it's about to a little tricky.
THOMAS: And this is obviously frustrating and European leaders in general are under increasing pressure from their electorate to take a stance against President Trump.
VAUSE: Very quickly, the U.S. Secretary of State, you know has been - - and the president's been talking about the possibility of a grand deal with Iran and everybody else. The reaction from the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.
"The prospect of a new jumbo Iran treaty is going to be very, very difficult. I don't see that being very easy to achieve, in anything like a reasonable timetable."
VAUSE: As far as the Europeans see it, is there any kind of diplomatic solution here involving the U.S. and Iran, is that off the table, at least for you know, the foreseeable future?
THOMAS: Well, I think ideally you know beyond the - - the - - the sort of the official rhetoric, but behind the scenes, seeking a diplomatic solution is obviously going to be you know absolutely crucial. But, once again, if the push, the threats, the crushing, this kind of you know bellicose language continues on, and ends up with a deal at the negotiating table and so on, it's rewarding a behavior which they don't want to reward.
So, it's the sort of push-pull, you know, ends up with an outcome they didn't desire, but I think that the divisions are deeper than what we are willing to perhaps look at. And, that it is increasingly time for European leaders who are doing it, the press is talking about these things, or thinking about a world in which the ties with the United States for the years to come are going to have to be redefined.
And Europe, as well, is going to have to work on different ways of dealing and negotiating, and enlisting, whether it's China, whether it's working with Russia on these particular questions, too.
VAUSE: It is an abrasive foreign policy from this White House, to say the least.
THOMAS: And terrifying to folks in Europe.
VAUSE: Yes, absolutely.
Dom, thank you.
VAUSE: Well, next up here on Newsroom L.A., did they defect or were they kidnapped?
It's a question about 12 North Korean waitresses that we many now have an answer to.
[01:31:13] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. If you're just joining us, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.
I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.
The U.S. is demanding Iran end its nuclear program, pull out of Syria and make a whole lot of other sweeping changes or face crushing sanctions and increasing military pressure. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined the demands on Monday.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani fights back dismissing the ultimatum and saying the international committee does not accept the U.S. as being the world's enforcer.
Sources tell CNN Donald Trump today sounds worried his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un might not happen. They site North Korea's recent harsh rhetoric and concerns that China may have too much influence over the talks.
South Korea's president will meet with President Trump in the coming hours to try and get that summit back on Trump -- back on track, rather.
President Trump met with senior intelligence and law enforcement officials on Monday after demanding an investigation into whether the FBI spied on his presidential campaign for political purposes. The deputy attorney general agreed to have the inspector general expand his surveillance probe. Well, the moment could soon be here for the U.S. Congress and others within the government to decide if a president -- any president has unconstrained constitutional authority to initiate, direct or conclude a criminal investigation for any reason. And that's because the Justice Department agreed to Donald Trump's demands to investigate his claims that the FBI spied on his campaign.
In many ways there is a Nixonian feel to all of this. That somehow crescendo is approaching similar to the infamous Saturday night massacre when President Richard Nixon fired the Watergate special prosecutor but not before his attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned.
Well, for more CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley is with us now from Austin. Douglas -- it's good to see you.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thanks for having me.
VAUSE: The argument out there is that the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein dodged the immediate crisis here by referring this to the inspector general. But regardless it seems the firewall between the White House and the Department of Justice if it hasn't been broken it's been seriously cracked. And that firewall was put in there as a direct result of Watergate.
BRINKLEY: Well, there's some question about it. You mentioned the Saturday night massacre of October 20th, 1973 when Nixon in a kind of spasm of panic really fired, you know, or tried to fire Archibald Cox and had to deal with Elliot Richardson who wouldn't do it and then William Ruckleshaus who wouldn't do it. Eventually he got Bork to -- Robert Bork to fire Cox.
So it became just a mess so much so that our country, you know, we've created an Ethics in Government Act in 1978 -- all as a direct result of the Saturday night massacre. That's the only thing holding Trump back from firing people and cleaning out people like Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein is this fear of the Watergate kind of backlash.
But something is in the chums in the water right now. You can feel that Trump is trying to be on the offense this week. And start calling the fact that there were spies in the FBI and the DOJ calling, "I hereby demand something be done." So there's a lot of hot action going on right now.
VAUSE: I just want to -- so going back to Watergate, one of the reasons why the Department of Justice now operates sort of independently or should operate independently, because during Watergate, the Nixon White House would get regular updates from the DOJ which the White House counsel John Dean would use to bear false testimony to anyone involved in the scandal -- anyone under investigation. And that is specifically why the DOJ -- one reason, anyway -- needs to be independent of the White House.
[01:34:59] BRINKLEY: Absolutely. And I think you just raised the key point. At all cost -- I mean why we're saying we're on the verge of a constitutional crisis if Donald Trump in some way tries to politicize and destroy the integrity of the FBI and DOJ any more than he's done now.
We saw the backlash to the firing of FBI director, Comey. We're looking at a president that's walking the borderline or maybe has already crossed on abuse of power, obstruction and justice. This just seems like a drip, drip to people but the Mueller investigation is starting to come to a head at the same time the Cohen investigation is in New York.
And you're starting to see Donald Trump once he hired Rudy Giuliani to start a new strategy of intimidation, of going on the offense and try to just feel like he can politically win this battle right now. So if the Mueller report comes out and it's damaging he can say it's because of the deep state has been out to get me.
Nixon tried this and it didn't work for him. And one hopes that it doesn't work if Trump goes to that kind of desperate measure to start firing somebody like Rod Rosenstein.
VAUSE: Well, the big difference is though between Nixon and Water, and Donald Trump and the Russia investigation Nixon did not have the right wing media echo chamber on his side during their utmost to discredit Robert Mueller which also seems to be one of the reasons why Republican lawmakers have not come out and said more about what this president has been doing.
BRINKLEY: You just touched on, from my perspective, the key difference between the Nixon era and now. And that is the echo chamber of the right wing media. I wrote a biography once of Walter Cronkite and I also edited the Nixon tapes. And in the Nixon tapes, we here President Nixon, "Let's destroy Walter Cronkite. Let's destroy the mainstream media." And they went after Cronkite.
They had his vice president, Spiro Agnew, you know, calling the press all sorts of names. But it just didn't stick because they didn't have that echo chamber.
Now with Fox News, with Breitbart, with alt-right outlets, talk radio -- the last 20, 30 years right wing media has consolidated itself to almost speak with one megaphone. And that's what Trump's counting on. That's why he's been poisoning the idea of the well of fake news for so long. You say it enough people will start believing.
So if the horrible day comes, the Mueller report comes down and Trump's fingerprints are all over Russia or his sons are he'll just say it's fake news and hope that a majority of the American people will believe him.
VAUSE: And very quickly, Douglas -- one sort of similarity if you like between Nixon and Donald Trump is this obsession with the President and before them -- their predecessors. It seems that this is something unique to these two men.
BRINKLEY: Well -- and it's on steroids with Donald Trump's trying to undo anything Barack Obama ever did, any executive order -- and you were starting to see why. What his game plan, Trump, we're seeing in action today; that is, say that the FBI and DOJ are just Obama eyes (ph). That I didn't do anything wrong, it's just part of the political war Trump versus Hillary Clinton and Trump versus Obama; that this is a political witch hunt.
And that's what he needs to shop to the American people and what's standing in his way is the free press and investigative journalism.
VAUSE: Ok. Douglas -- as always, thank you so much. Good to have you with us.
BRINKLEY: Thank you.
VAUSE: Well, at the time we all thought it was mass defection to some North Koreans. This happened two years ago. Now it turned to just something else including an embarrassment.
CNN's Paula Hancocks explains.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mass defection or mass abduction -- 12 North Korean waitresses from the North Korean state-run restaurant in China and their manager arrived in South Korea April 2016. The North claimed they had been tricked. The South said they had escaped freely.
Now the restaurant manager is speaking out and says Pyongyang is right. Heo Gang-il wants his face hidden for fear of retribution. A former member of the elite, he tells he was an informant for South Korea's spy agency, the NIS, while running this North Korean restaurant in China. He became disillusioned with the Kim Jong-un regime.
He says he was blackmailed by one of his customers who knew he was working with the intelligence agency and decided to defect to South Korea with NIS help.
"The NIS told me to bring every one with me," he says. "I told them it was impossible. Their attitude suddenly changed telling me if I didn't bring the workers with me they will report me to the North Korean embassy and have me killed. They called back and said this is President Park Geun-hye's order. She has a big plan." Heo claims the defection was arranged to give conservatives a boost just days before a parliamentary election.
01:40:01] In a highly unusual move, the South Korean Unification Ministry publicized the mass defection releasing a photo of the North Koreans saying "13 defectors voluntarily decided to leave and pushed ahead with the escape without any help from the outside."
The ministry, now part of a new liberal government, says they are looking into the fresh allegations but there's no change in the government's stance that the women defected of their own free will. Three of the waitresses' families were brought to a CNN team in Pyongyang in May 2016 for interviews. They all said the women were kidnapped. The emotional interviews organized by the North Korean government. Officials also brought other waitresses they say were working at the same restaurant in China but left before Heo took the women to Malaysia. They, too, insisted their colleagues would never have abandoned their families and were tricked into going to South Korea.
What did you say to the women to convince them to go with you? Where did they know you're going?
"I told the workers we are moving accommodation to a better place", he says. "In North Korea there's a very strict hierarchy like the military. Lower rankings cannot question my orders."
CNN affiliate JTVC, who first spoke to the manager also spoke to three women who say they are the waitresses and were tricked by their manager. Others did not want to talk or could not be tracked down, JTVC says.
"We were put into cars," they say, "a few in the each car. That's when we saw the South Korean flag and the embassy. While we were going into the South Korean embassy in Malaysia I thought something is horribly wrong here."
Heo says the women were given South Korean passports with false names and flown to South Korea, a normally treacherous journey that takes effective (ph) months, took these North Koreans just two days.
Did the NIS pay for the flight?
"The NIS paid for the plane fares," says Heo. "It was about $10,000."
CNN has asked the NIS about these accusations. They have yet to respond.
Why have you decided to talk about this now?
"I realize the government was manipulating people," he says. "I was trapped and felt that North Korean propaganda against the South was right. And I regret it so much."
These accusations surround the former government here in South Korea but it's the current government who will have to deal with any potential fallout. Now the issue does threaten to complicate warming relations between North and South Korea. Just this weekend, North Korea renewed its demand that these women be sent back to Pyongyang. They didn't actually mention the manager but he has told me that he is willing to face any punishment if it means he can see his mother and his family again.
Paula Hancocks, CNN -- Seoul.
VAUSE: Next on NEWSROOM L.A. lava from the Kilauea Volcano has reached the Pacific Ocean and that means this crisis has reached a whole new level of danger. We'll explain in a moment.
[01:42:47] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: New eruptions from the Kilauea Volcano appear to be getting bigger and more powerful. And now rivers of lava are flowing towards the east coast of Hawaii's Big Island. Authorities are warning residents to be ready to leave with little or no notice.
For the very latest, here's Stephanie Elam reporting in from Hawaii.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The lava continues to fountain here on this side of the Big Island. Take a look behind me and you can see just how high and how striking this fountain is as it is shooting lava up into the sky and sending it down into the sort of river of black lava that has already coursed out of the earth and has run down the side here into the Pacific Ocean.
It's still running into the Pacific Ocean and it's still sending up a large plume into the sky that steam in hydrochloric acid as well as those glass particles that occur when you see lava hitting the salt water of the ocean.
That's also happening. Brush fires have occurred and there's a constant explosion that you may hear behind. And that is another fissure off in the distance that is releasing those volcanic gases with. Such force that they sound almost sonic booms sometimes; sometimes like a cannon, sometimes like a jet.
And you can see in places -- if you are at the right lighting, you can see that it is forcing rocks up into the sky a couple of hundred at a time. All of this still continuing here as this eruption that has been going on now for over two weeks as it continues here.
Back to you.
VAUSE: Stephanie -- thank you.
Let's go to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri at the international weather center for more on this lava flows and now toxic killer gas clouds.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, it's all in place what I was referring to you in the last hour of this -- the multidimensional nature of all of this. So with certain natural disasters, you have a little bit of a heads up when it comes to tropical systems. When it's earth-based, no heads up but they come. You get aftershocks for a few days or a few weeks -- things taper off.
This is a completely different ballgame here with these folks across Hawaii. And of course, you know, geologists are beginning to take this very seriously as well, protective gear on inspecting some of the lava flows across this region.
And you look at the images and the video coming across from this area of the world as well, really an incredible perspective to look at this because oftentimes when we have large scale eruptions they do occur in very remote or isolated locations. You don't get a glimpse that we're getting here into the Hawaiian island and the Big Island of Hawaii. And of course, scenes are playing out as such. And I want to introduce them. I want to bring someone into play here that has first-hand seat on the ground experience with what is happening right now across portions of Hawaii.
And we're talking about David Mace (ph). He is the media relations manager at FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. David -- thanks for joining us.
I know you probably had a very rough and wild couple of weeks with what's been happening across this region. Thanks for making time for us.
DAVID MACE, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (via telephone): Glad to be here. Thanks for having me on.
JAVAHERI: Now David -- I've got to ask you the million-dollar question. You know scientists here at CNN, they ask us how long is this going to expect to last. And you know, these conditions with the eruptions with the constant -- the wave of action that we're seeing across this region with all the elements that have been impacting this region.
We've used our experience from previous similar eruptions to give a rough estimate but with you there on the ground -- what are you seeing? What are you hearing from the experts there?
MACE: Well, you know, let me be clear that I'm a spokesperson and not a volcanologist. The experts at the U.S. Geological Survey, when asked about this, are very clear that it's completely up to Mother Nature, to Pele, to determine how long this will go on. It could go on for days. It could go on for weeks.
There is just really no way of telling until the pressure is released and they close up.
JAVAHERI: Yes. And you know, of course, we're talking about recently the lava now flowing into the ocean -- what additional danger does that pose to the communities there as you're seeing and hearing?
MACE: Well, there were two flows entering the ocean -- a northerly and a southerly flow. At this time the southerly flow has ceased. It stopped some time this morning Hawaii time. The northerly flow -- excuse me -- is still very active and flowing into the ocean.
[01:49:46] And as you mentioned earlier in your story it produces what's called laze or lava haze, a mixture of hydrochloric acid, steam and fine glass particles. It can be an irritant to breathe it or get it on your skin. But fortunately the trade winds are blowing in their typical northeast to southwest direction and that's blowing a lot of it off shore and to the south away from the island.
JAVAHERI: That's good to hear. David -- I'm curious, as far s your office is concerned, what are you guys able to do in these affected areas? What advice do you have for the residents that are being impacted in this region as well? MACE: The -- between the laze, that's typically only occurring at the shoreline where the lava is meeting sea water and that area has already been evacuated and is being kept clear of any spectators other than a few licensed tour boats.
Most of the residents are being affected now by ash. Approximately two hours ago, just before 6:00 p.m. Hawaii local time, there was another explosive eruption at the Kilauea summit. And this was primarily an ash event.
So right now the primary hazards that residents are facing are sulfur dioxide gas released from the fissures and ash from the explosive eruptions caused by steam at the summit. And primarily the best way to avoid any kind of health effect is to stay indoors.
Some people are using filter masks which protect against the ash but which don't protect against the sulfur dioxide. But the primary means of protecting yourself is to stay indoors.
JAVAHERI: Yes. David -- and final question for you here, we know highways such as Highway 137 had been cut off because of the lava across this region. How is that making your job more challenging? Are you still able to meet your way into these regions and provide assistance? Or are some areas completely out of the question because of the safety of your crew?
MACE: I'm not -- I've only been down on to the field -- on to the lab field that one time. Certainly the crews who are working down there are finding communication and movement more difficult as the road system is overrun with lava.
I would say the primary function or the primary goal of all of their efforts right now is simply to keep people safe. That means keeping people who aren't authorized to be in the area out of the area and ensuring that workers who are there, by monitoring the sulfur dioxide levels, the people who are working on the road and are standing guard over the area are safe from any exposure.
JAVAHERI: Thank you so much David. That was David Mace joining us live on the phone from Hilo, Hawaii. David is from FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
John -- let's head back to you in Los Angeles.
VAUSE: Thanks you -- Pedram. It's just incredible what they are dealing with right now. And again, it keeps going and no end in sight. Thank you.
We'll take a short break. When we come back -- a private conversation between the Pope and a gay man has been heard around the world. As the Holy Father told him "God made you this way" many are asking is this a major change in Catholic doctrine?
VAUSE: Well, in the coming hours, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the European parliament and it will be streamed live. Initially Zuckerberg planned to meet privately with a handful of European lawmakers but that decision was widely criticized by other lawmakers.
[01:55:01] Facebook is under scrutiny after reports data firm Cambridge Analytica accessed information from millions of Facebook users without their knowledge.
Pope Francis has reportedly told a gay man that God made him gay and that God loves him that way. It sounds like a remarkable expression of inclusion to the LBGT community.
For details CNN's Delia Gallagher has more now from Rome.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Pope Francis met with Juan Carlos Cruz for three days at the Vatican at the end of April. The Pope invited Cruz to the Vatican because he's a survivor of clerical sex abuse in Chile.
And Cruz says that during the course of those conversations they also discussed the fact that Cruz is gay and that the Pope allegedly told him it doesn't matter. God made you this way. God loves you this way.
The Vatican says that they don't normally comment on the Pope's private conversations. It's causing discussion because if it is true that the Pope said "God created you this way" essentially saying God created you gay, then it suggests that if the Pope is going beyond anything that popes have said in the past about gays and indeed it's difficult to square with the traditional Catholic teaching that the homosexual inclination, as they call it, is a disorder. So that opens up a whole series of questions on the Catholic position on Gays.
Now one interpretation of this is that Pope Francis was merely speaking privately to a gay man and offering, as he has done in public, the Church has welcomed and God's love to gays.
Another interpretation as we've seen in the past with the Pope is that he doesn't mind if his private comments are made public because it is a way of changing the narrative, changing the public perception on an issue without however having to change the official church teaching which the Pope has given no indication he intends to do.
Delia Gallagher, CNN -- Rome.
VAUSE: Well, from president to producer -- Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle has signed a multi-year deal with Netflix that will create content that may include scripted and non-scripted shows, documentaries as well as features. A source says they could be on- camera talent as well.
The Obamas say they will harness the power of storytelling. No word on how much they'll be paid but chances are it's a lot more than that presidential pension of just over $200,000 a year.
You're watching NEWSROOM L.A. I'm John Vause.
Please stay with us. I'll be back with a lot more news after a very short break.
[02:00:10] VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --