Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Rips Attorney General, Wishes He Hadn't Picked Him; Gowdy Refutes Trump, Nunes, Fox "Spy" Conspiracy; Roseanne Blames Ambien For Racist, Anti-Semitic Tweets. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 30, 2018 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- that he'd never hired you. That's what Jeff Sessions is up against again today. The beleaguered attorney general, once again, beleaguered taking another public tweet are beating from his boss. This time, President Trump tweeted that he'd wished he'd picked someone else to be his attorney general.

It's no secret, of course, that Trump is beyond frustrated that Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. So, what prompted this latest shaming? It seems this interview with Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy.


REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY (R-SC), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think what the president is doing is expressing frustration that Attorney General Sessions should have shared these reasons for recusal before he took the job, not afterward. If I were the president and I'd picked someone to be the country's chief law enforcement officer and they told me later, by the way, I'm not going to be able po participate in the most important case in the office I would be frustrated, too.

That's how I read that is Senator Sessions, why didn't you tell me this before I picked you? There are lots of really good lawyers in the country. He could have picked someone else.


BOLDUAN: Now that is interesting. You what is even more interesting, the fact that Trump was quoting Trey Gowdy here. The same Trey Gowdy who just hours earlier debunked the president's conspiracy theory du jour, the unproven claim that the FBI under President Obama had planted an informant in Trump's campaign to act as a spy. Don't take our word for it. Here again is Trey Gowdy.


GOWDY: I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Keep in mind, Gowdy isn't just some Congressman spouting off on this issue. As House oversight chairman he was at last week's classified Justice Department briefing on this very issue.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Shimon Prokupecz are here. Let's start at the White House. Kaitlan, what are you hearing about what's going on with Trump's latest attack against his attorney general?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, this is just a repeat here, Kate, of what the president has said before, that he wishes that he had picked someone else as his attorney because of Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, something that has long plagued the president and something he has never gotten over in this relationship.

Now this goes back to Trey Gowdy's comment where he said that he sympathized with the president. He understood his frustration here and Trey Gowdy was being asked about this "New York Times" report that described in great detail a meeting between Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump last March right after Jeff Sessions had made the decision to recuse himself after it was reported he did not disclose that he had met with some Russian officials.

Now this goes into great detail as March 2017 right after Jeff Sessions had recused himself, he flew down to Palm Beach after the president had not been taking his calls for several days thinking he was going to meet with the president to discuss immigration.

And when he got down there it was a different story, Kate. The president was angry, berated him and told him he needed to reverse the decision, so he could go back and be in charge of the Russia investigation.

And of course, obviously, as we've seen over the past year, Jeff Sessions said he could not do that and did not make that decision and that was really the beginning of the end between this relationship that was once a very good relationship, and very solid between the president and his attorney general.

Now it's hard to overstate just how broken their relationship is, Kate. The two of them do not talk on the phone. When they're in the same room for an event together, they barely interact.

Things are very broken between the two of them and Trump privately complains about Jeff Sessions regularly and every now and then as it did today, it comes out to the public eye.

BOLDUAN: Shimon, the "New York Times" says that the special counsel is now looking into this request that Kaitlan was laying. That Sessions reverse his recusal over dinner back in March of 2017. What do we know about that?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. Well, this is one of the first indications here I guess, the earliest indications that the president was unhappy about Jeff Sessions' recusal, but it's sort of an ongoing issue, right? We know that the special counsel is looking at other conversations that the president had with Jeff Sessions including, you know, some of the tweets and some of the statements he's made publicly to us in the media.

That is all part of the special counsel's investigation and it also shows us, and it indicates to us that it's not just the obstruction does not just relate to what he did in terms of firing the former FBI director.

But it also extends into his interaction and what he was trying to get Jeff Sessions to do and that is to take charge of this investigation after Jeff Sessions recused himself and keep in mind that Jeff Sessions recused himself with the advice of career prosecutors and career attorneys at the Department of Justice.

This wasn't a decision that he went ahead and made on his own. You know, Jeff Sessions have said so as much that he consulted career lawyers at the Department of Justice.

BOLDUAN: And Shimon, getting back to Trey Gowdy and the president's conspiracy theory du jure, he basically is confirming what FBI sources have been telling you about the spy conspiracy theory all along.

[11:05:02] PROKUPECZ: Right. This is significant in the sense of who Trey Gouwdy is. He's a Republican, right? We have Republicans out there who are essentially arguing this for the president, this conspiracy theory saying that there was a spy planted inside the campaign by the FBI and by the Department of Justice.

And really what you have here is Trey Gowdy who has seen this intelligence, been briefed by the FBI in a classified setting. He's has been told what they were doing and what their investigation involved.

And clearly, here, taking the position that many that we have talked to at the FBI and the intelligence community and really other places so that the idea that there was some spy planted in the campaign by anyone at the Department of Justice, by people at the FBI is just ludicrous.

And it's important to think about this for the FBI and the people who are doing this work and continuing to do this investigation that they have people like Trey Gowdy who come out and support them because there is still a larger investigation that is underway that we all don't really focus on and that has to do with what the Russians were doing here. That is still a very active and ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller and the FBI.

BOLDUAN: Shimon, Kaitlan, great to see you, guys. Thank you. Joining me right now to discuss this more, CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu, and CNN political director, David Chalian.

David, we know that Trump, talking first of all Sessions, we know that Trump was not happy that Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. He'd said that to "The New York Times," but this morning he said it in the most direct way yet that he wishes he'd picked someone else. I mean, he could fire him. Why is he restarting this public shaming?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. He does serve at the president's pleasure and the president seems displeased. But here's the thing, Kate, it's just on this one issue, which obviously, is a dominant issue and one that the president is clearly obsessed with.

This issue of recusing himself and not overseeing this Russia probe and on nearly every other issue, Jeff Sessions is very executing Donald Trump's agenda the way he wants whether it's on immigration or the array of other issues that come before him at the Justice Department.

And so, it doesn't -- I would imagine if that was not the case Jeff Sessions would no longer be here, but he is accomplishing those other agenda items.

BOLDUAN: And Shan, according to the "New York Times," Trump was asking Sessions to un-recuse himself at this March -- about this March '17 confrontation and all of this now is being investigated by Bob Mueller. It seems they are looking into obstruction. Do you see obstruction?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, potentially. I think that him having Sessions come down there after the fact to berate him about that, that I'm sure is going to raise the interest level of Mueller's team and to follow up on what David was saying it's important to analyze that the AG has more than one case.

So, the more that the president focusses on one case as his reasons for wanting him to un-recuse himself contrary to the advice of the regulations and career prosecutors, the more suspicious that begins to look.

BOLDUAN: And Shan, Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told the "New York Times" this, and I thought it was a pretty fascinating quote, "Unrecused doesn't say bury the investigation. It says on the face of it, take responsibility for it and handle it correctly." Does Giuliani have a point?

WU: He has a point although it doesn't seem applicable to these circumstances. Really the message does seem to be I want you to stick around and change your mind because I want you to bury the investigation. I think here are the details would be really important.

I think that's why you see so many of the questions we've heard that Mueller wants to ask go to the president's state of mind saying that hey, would you reconsider you're the best man for the job, I'm comfortable with you is one thing and saying what the heck are you doing? I want you to put the cabosh on this so don't leave, that's problematic.

BOLDUAN: David, I mean, the "Times" is saying that Trump told his aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry. That's why he was so up in arms about this. I am not making a judgement here, but if you are innocent, why do you need a loyalist overseeing the investigation?

CHALIAN: No judgement is necessary, Kate. It is a really valid question. What is the president afraid of about an independent investigation? Why does a loyalist need to be in place for this president to feel that this investigation is fair? That is a question that should be posed to the president, posed to the White House because it just doesn't make sense. It requires more explanation there.

BOLDUAN: And David, the other part of this that we were talking about with Shimon is a key Republican, the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee Trey Gowdy was one of the lawmakers that was pushing for more information about the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign and the Russia investigation.

He now says about the president's unproven claim there is a spy planted in his campaign that there's nothing there, there, but then you have this from last night from the president. Listen.


[11:10:07] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: So, how do you like the fact they had people infiltrating our campaign? Can you imagine? Can you imagine? Can you imagine? People infiltrating our campaign. Is there anybody in this big, beautiful arena right now that is infiltrating our campaign? Would you please raise your hand?


BOLDUAN: So, in his typical flair the president is taking Gowdy's word when it comes to Jeff Sessions recusal because he used it in his tweet. How can he avoid not listening to Trey Gowdy owe this exact issue that he went after again last night?

CHALIAN: You're asking how the president could not be a hypocrite on this? I don't know how to answer that. Obviously, he's cherry picking Gowdy's comments that suit his political goals of the moment.

BOLDUAN: He's going to have Trey Gowdy. Trey Gowdy is not going to move up his position now. Trey Gowdy is going to say I know what I saw.

CHALIAN: Trey Gowdy blew the entire baseless claim that there was somebody embedded in the Trump campaign, a spy embedded in the Trump campaign, he blew that to smithereens and not only is it going to be difficult for the president to deal with that, but the right-wing media echo chamber and Fox News, what have you.

This is Devin Nunes and other members of Congress that pushed this, Kate, Trey Gowdy is a well-respected conservative Republican and former prosecutor and he blew that case to smithereens by saying that and that becomes a messaging problem. And to your earlier point, Trey Gowdy remembers also the person that two months ago said on television if you're innocent, act like it. So, he's been offering advice to this president on this case through the television airwaves, but the president doesn't seem to be taking it.

BOLDUAN: Not yet. I mean, let's see if the president does on this one. Shan, with Trey Gowdy saying this and this will continue, I mean, he will continue saying this and continue talking about what he saw in that classified briefing.

And that the president should not be worried about it and he should be more than fine with it. He should be happy that the FBI have been conducting themselves in an appropriate manner?

Does someone owe the FBI an apology now? I don't know if anybody in the FBI cares one way or the other, but does the president need to say something about this?

WU: Well, I don't think -- I think you're right. I think the FBI does not care one way or the other. They're going to push forward. It actually would be a very smart, strategic move for the president to express some confidence in the FBI if as Trey Gowdy seems to be signaling him that perhaps there will not be a smoking gun leading to the president.

He may want to be on the right side of the report that comes out that he's actually not guilty of something like obstruction and he's really missing the point that you want to shore up your institutional credibility for your FBI department and for your Justice Department.

And certainly, he's missing one of the better characteristics of Sessions which is by recusing himself in this matter, he looks as though he's less political than he actually is, which is a good appearance you want in your attorney general.

BOLDUAN: It's typically what you're going for. Shan, David, thanks, guys.

Coming up, it was the Ambien. Roseanne Barr speaks out after getting fired from ABC saying she was under the influence of sleep medication when she sent those racist tweets. You'll want to see what Ambien's maker said about that.

Plus, Michael Cohen and the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti back in court amid the battle over files seized from Cohen's office and home. We will go live to the courthouse.



BOLDUAN: While you were sleeping, Roseanne Barr was tweeting and tweeting and tweeting. Dozens of tweets and re-tweets despite her promise to quit Twitter she did anything but in the hours after ABC canceled her hit sitcom over her racist tweet. Barr was both apologetic and also placing blame, blaming among other things, a sleep medication with this tweet, "It was 2:00 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting and it was Memorial Day, too. I went too far and do not want to defend it, it was egregious, indefensible. I made a mistake, I wish I hadn't, but don't defend it, please."

She later deleted the apology and Barr also had this explanation. I honestly thought she was Jewish and Persian, ignorant of me for sure, but I did." That's about Valerie Jarrett in the original tweet.

Joining me now, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter. Brian, what do you make of Roseanne's response today?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: She is affirming and proving that ABC did the right thing by promoting more conspiracy theories and tweeting a bunch of random and inappropriate stuff, by blaming Ambien even, she's just affirming ABC's decision.

You know, there are criticism of ABC out there over canceling the show, but it's been drowned out by the course of support for the decision. This has been an example of corporate America standing up trying to be on the right side of history.

The view inside ABC has been that Roseanne kept embarrassing himself for months on Twitter by posting inappropriate stuff and Tuesday was the worst example yet. As one source at Disney said to me, there was no way to come back from this, this was unsurvivable for her.

So, now she's back on Twitter and continuing to talk about her show and continuing to apologize in one breath, but then says she's the victim in another breath. ABC meanwhile has this giant hole to fill in their schedule.

They're giving up their highest-rated new show, but I think there is some chatter about some version of Roseanne without Roseanne. Maybe it would be called the Connors and maybe there is a way to kill off her character and keep the rest of the show. To be clear, ABC is not saying that's happening. It's far too soon for any news on that front, but it is starting to be talked about.

BOLDUAN: Valerie Jarrett, Obama's adviser that was the target of Roseanne's racist tweet is also speaking out. Let her have her say. What is she saying?

[11:20:03] STELTER: She is saying she is fine and she appreciates people's interest and support and she happened to be speaking at a previously scheduled town hall last night and she said this moment in time, it has to be turned into a teachable moment.


VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: The tone does start at the top and we have to look up to the president and feel as though he reflects the values of our country and I feel every individual citizen has a responsibility, too. It's our government is only going to be as good as we make it be.


STELTER: Let's be honest, Roseanne probably wouldn't be on the air were it not for president Trump. ABC was trying to appeal to a heartland audience that feels it's not represented by Hollywood. At the same time, this cancellation wouldn't be nearly as big a deal where it not for this Trump age we live in where it feels intolerance and racism is on the rise. Everyone is wondering whether Trump will say anything about the show.

BOLDUAN: Still amazing his silence might say a lot as well already. Great to see you, Brian. Thank you.

Joining me right now, Rob Astorino, Republican commentator and former Republican nominee for governor of New York and CNN political commentator, Charles Blow, an opinion columnist, of course, for "The New York Times." Gentlemen, great to see you.

Charles, she's sorry and it's Ambien. Does it make sense?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Ambien says that racism is not a side effect of its drug.

BOLDUAN: Literally the maker of Ambien tweeted that out. Yes.

BLOW: But even if that were a believable rush, it actually makes it worse because it does suggest that this thing is embedded in her subconscious and the only reason not coming out is because she's awake and she can control it, but that is her core belief.

But I think the bigger issue here is that this is one of those subjects that is an across the line subject. It is an untouchable subject because this -- the race question in America was for centuries not a question of race at all.

It was a species question, right? That actual scientists and doctors went to great lengths to try to prove that black people were, in fact, a sub-species of people closer to ape and monkey and you had to do that in order to -- to deliver the amount of massive suffering and loss of life that slavery and the subsequent laws that came out of that, after that produced.

So many people died just marching to the coast of Africa before they got on the ship. A million died during the middle of passage. Some shot overboard, jumping overboard because they were driven crazy by the fact that they were trapped.

Sharks turned to trail those boats because there was so much flesh going over those boats and you had to have some sort of this. That's the only way you can even justify that system existing in this country for as long as it did and that idea for the -- it existed for a very, very long time.

You had people put into human zoos right here in New York City. The Bronx Zoo, 1906, had a black man on display at the zoo. People coming and ogling him just like the other animals at the zoo. This is what that sort of thing, that comparison did. That's 40 years after slavery was over.

That's a decade after -- after Booker T. Washington delivers the Atlanta compromise speech, that is three years after W.B. Dubois publishes the "Souls of Black" book and it is still happening, and we can still have a major zoo in the most populated city in this country, a black man on display in a cage at a zoo.

BOLDUAN: This is so much more than a tweet. I mean, I can see it in your face. Forget the words that you're giving right here. It is so much more than a tweet, and then Rob, how can -- you had said yesterday is indefensible what she did, what she said and what do you say to the people that have been rushing to her defense?

ROB ASTORINO, FORMER EXECUTIVE No. I don't think they're rushing to her defense just like I was saying last night in that as outraged as Charles just was and is and should be and I am at what she did, when others have said the same kind of thing or written the same thing or used the "n" word, was there outrage.

But it was pretty quick, and it wasn't the same kind of response from that same network, by the way. Paula Dean who was in "Dancing With The Stars" after using the "n" word. You can go on and on and on.

I've talked about Joy Behar and the things that she had said, which has been awful to half the country. She even said that Republicans turn her off. So, does ABC think that that's a good response?

[11:25:03] Now so as bad as it was, and it was terrible should we cut off her thumb? Should she be given a second chance? Look, that's a corporate decision that ABC made, but where is -- where is the balance in the response.

BOLDUAN: But you're not trying to say because it was -- because someone else -- because they made a bad decision, someone made a bad decision before because someone else did it it's OK here. You're not saying it's OK.

ASTORINO: No, it's not OK, but they also knew what they were getting. This isn't the first time Roseanne has done something terrible. Just the national anthem was offensive. What she did during the singing of the national anthem to many, many people. But she's a lunatic and she's a nut, but they brought her back for a reason because she also is entertaining as many others.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this. The fact that the president has not said anything. We talked about this last night and it was before he had a speech and his rally. He didn't say anything. Does that speak volumes?

ASTORINO: Look, I think, it would be very easy for the White House to just say something and get it over with. So, we're not talking for two or three days about what the president is or is not saying and when he does something it will not be enough or too much and it's going to be never-ending, but this is an easy one and I think he should say or the White House should say it's reprehensible.

BOLDUAN: Charles, considering his track record and how he handles race in America, do you even hear from him?

BLOW: I think the office of the president because he has attached himself to her specifically, right, and to that show publicly, they should -- the office of the president should respond in some sort of way, right? Would any contrition on him from that issue and not being contrite about his own statements be valuable in any way?

I don't think so. Would I -- would I wait that as being a moral moment for the White House? I wouldn't personally because he has never, to my knowledge, apologized for any of the racially insensitive things that he himself has said.

BOLDUAN: This is a --

ASTORINO: What is being conflated here is that people are holding up a mirror and saying if you voted for Trump this is really what you are and that's completely wrong. It's not who I am. It's not who 99 percent of those who voted for Trump for specific reasons and maybe against Hillary.

BOLDUAN: I think any person should say no one should be taking any group of people and saying you all believe one thing.

ASTORINO: Of course -- but that's kind of what's happening here and what I am saying and what I want to be known is OK, so when Alec Baldwin screams --

BOLDUAN: Don't bring more people into it.

ASTORINO: No, because the reaction from NBC and others was OK, bad, but hey, come back on SNL because you're funny.

BLOW: Yes, I find that incredibly problematic. I think this line of reasoning, that says I can have the policies without the poison is a lie. If you --

ASTORINO: Alec Baldwin is a --

BOLDUAN: He's talking about Donald Trump.

BLOW: Donald Trump and people keep trying to make this argument to me that I can support him. I can vote for him and I can detach myself from his hatred and his white supremacy and you cannot. It is impossible to do.

ASTORINO: Well, others would say, and the polls showed this that race relations in America were the worst after Obama left. We can go on and on about that.

BLOW: That's ridiculous.

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: We are going to end on the fact that we believe polls and we don't believe polls when they don't make our point. That's where we are definitely in America today. This discussion is not over and I will continue this conversation at the break. Charles, thank you so much. Rob, thank you.

Coming up, we'll take you to Hawaii. Evacuate or face an uncertain fate. Officials in Hawaii are warning residents that first responders will not come to the rescue if official evacuation orders are ignored. That's next.