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Report: Trump Says, Have the Absolute Power to Pardon Self; Trump Dictated Statement for Son on Trump Tower Meetings; GOP Leader Says Trump Is Not Going to Pardon Himself; Source Says Trump-Kim Meeting Will Be More Like Meet and Greet; Police Suspect Linked to 4 Murders Kills Self. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired June 4, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you so much. Hi, everyone, I'm Brooke Baldwin, thank you for tuning in to CNN on this Monday afternoon, we're moments away from the White House briefing. We're finding another case of what was said at that podium, also with the lawyer on TV, even with the president himself, they were not telling the truth. As the credibility of this White House is yet again under question, the president is tweeting today that he is above the law.
Let me read for you, "as has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to pardon myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?" Why if the president has done nothing wrong would he not want to say so and agree to sit down with an interview with the special council? Not so fast says Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: This is the reason you don't let the president testify. Our recollection keeps changing or we're not asked a question, somebody makes an assumption. In my case, I made an assumption, then we corrected it, and I got it right out as soon as it happened. I think that's what happened here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Our recollection keeps changing. Shouldn't the truth be easy to recall? All of this is coming out after "The New York Times" released this 20-page letter from Trump's attorneys sent in January, and it pushed back on the president sitting down with Robert Mueller and argues the president cannot obstruct the Russia probe because he as the top law enforcement officer in this country could pardon himself if he so desired. And this letter didn't just address constitutional issues, it reveals a critical inconsistency, linked to that infamous Trump Tower meeting back in June 2016, the one in which Don Junior said was for Russian adoptions. We later learned it was about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Now we have more. The first misleading statement that it was about adoptions. That didn't come from Don Jr., it came from President Trump.
The president dictated a short but accurate response to the New York times article on behalf of his son Donald Trump Jr. You see the words, the president dictated. The exact word, verb, action, his press secretary said he did not do. And it wasn't just Sarah Sanders denying it, remember when the meeting was first revealed. The president's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow said over and over, what we now know is a lie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He didn't dictate, he weighed in, offered suggestion, like any father would do.
JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president. The president didn't sign off on anything. I do want to be clear, the president was not involved in drafting the statement, and did not issue the statement, it came from Donald Trump Jr.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's go to our chief White House correspondent standing by in that briefing room, and Jim how does Sarah Sanders explain this one?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be tough, Brooke, I'll make a prediction here, the expression you're going to hear over the next hour, I'd like to refer this to the president's outside legal team. I don't think Sarah Sanders is going to want to answer a lot of those questions, especially questions about comments she made last year, when she was asked whether the president dictated or had anything to do with this memo back in June of 2016. We know that is not the case. There are other legal questions that are going to come up at this briefing, the president tweeted about one of those this morning, that is whether he has the power to pardon himself, you recall during the Nixon administration, just before Richard Nixon resigned from office, the Justice Department put out a memo that said, no, the president cannot pardon himself, cannot put himself above the law. President Trump tweeting otherwise, his own legal team tweeting otherwise, here's what Rudy Giuliani said on ABC when he was asked this very question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you and the president's attorneys believe the president has the power to pardon himself?
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: He's not, but he probably does. He has no intention of pardoning himself, but he probably does.
Doesn't say he can't. That's another really institutional margin. The president of the United States pardoning himself would just be unthinkable, and it would -- it would lead to probably -- an immediate impeachment, you get the House -- the Senate would be under tremendous pressure.
[14:05:00] President Trump has no need to do that, he didn't do anything wrong, this is a terrible investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, the other question that is going to come up and it's a -- because of something they laid out themselves and the president's legal team talked about this as well many that the president in their view can't be indicted while he's in office, Rudy Giuliani told "The Huffington Post" yesterday evening, even if the president. And this is in Rudy Giuliani's characterization. Not my characterization. He said the president could shoot the former FBI Director James Comey and not be indicted because he is a sitting president. He would have to be impeached first and then indicted. Pretty twisted legal rationalizing there, at the heart of it is this believer inside of the legal team we've been observing for months now, they view the president as having these sweeping unchecked powers as the head of the executive branch.
Setting all of that aside, there's this question as to whether it was appropriate at all for Giuliani to use that kind of language, Brooke. Talking about the president shooting the former FBI director. That kind of -- just the crafting of that kind of argument is something that will be called into question during this briefing. I think as I was saying at the top of this Sarah Sanders will over and over again will say I'd like to refer you to the president's outside legal team. I think that's basically her best and only escape hatch for a lot of these questions later today, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Speaking of Rudy Giuliani, he will be on Chris Cuomo's new show tonight, for the premiere of "CUOMO PRIME TIME," do not miss this.
Let's have a bigger conversation, Jim just laid out a bunch of headlines. Joining me now, CNN political analyst Mark Preston, Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics," and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin, who used to serve as special assistant to Robert Mueller at the DOJ. Michael, first to you, on the notion of the president pardoning himself. Straight up, constitutional or unconstitutional?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The office of legal counsel in the Justice Department, that office that offers opinions about what is legal and not legal, issued a ruling back on August 5th, 1974 which said specifically, the president could not pardon himself. It arose in the context of the Nixon Watergate cases, but the memorandum is still there, in tact, and it says flat out, he can't do it, he can't be his own judge and jury. And that notions of constitutional principles would not allow it. OLC is opining it can't be done.
BALDWIN: Another follow-up from Jim's other point, Rudy Giuliani to "The Huffington Post" and how the president can't be indicted while in office. Giving the example, poor taste in language if I may, you can shoot the FBI director and he'd have to be impeached before indicted.
ZELDIN: He could be charged under that hypothetical, I think by any state for murder charges, in which the -- you know, the murder takes place, I also think the underpinnings of the OLC opinion that says that prosecution of or indictment of the president while in office, which means to say that he can't do it because it would somehow interfere with his ability to be a functioning president. For the president to do something as extreme as Giuliani's example, shoot someone in the oval
office, I don't think the rationale that underlies that opinion would apply, they would make an exception to that rule, and he would be indicted and tried, and if proven guilty, he would be incarcerated.
BALDWIN: I like to deal in the realm of facts and the law, that's why I wanted to start with you. Now, Mark, to you on -- listen, we don't know how this movie ends. We don't know what Robert Mueller is going to find here in this whole investigation. In the end, those big decisions will be up to members of Congress. And, of course, at the moment, Republicans dominate Congress, and they have stayed mum, they haven't gone up against Trump unless they're leaving office, I want you to take a look at what happened here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The president is not saying he's going to pardon himself. I don't know why we're walking through hypotheticals here. The president has never said he would pardon himself, I don't think a president should pardon themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So how long can Republicans stand by the said, he said, let's have this investigation be over with.
[14:10:00] MARK PRESTON, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: There has been no collusion. When we talk about Republicans in this investigation. I do think it's fair to segregate them between House Republicans and Senate Republicans. Senate Republicans really have done a very good bipartisan job of trying to pursue this investigation. So by and large, there haven't been any political problems on that side. When you get to the House side and you see some of the actions by the likes of Devin Nunes who is the intelligence chairman and others, and as you note, the lack of any outrage from Republicans about some of these actions or statements is really appalling, not surprising.
But Brooke as you talked about the legal implications with Michael, the political implications as you said, come down in November, and if they don't think that the Republican Congress has done enough then they're going to drum them out of office.
BALDWIN: Kaitlyn also back on Jim's point as we wait for Sarah Sanders, who stood there and said, the president did not dictate that statement as a concerned father, do you think Jim's right, it's going to be a whole game of referring you to outside council as the line.
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: We have seen that in the past, this is something that deals directly with what Sarah Sanders herself has said. What the administration itself has said, and, therefore, it is within the realm of the White House to answer that, and Sarah Sanders, of course, is the spokesperson for the White House. So, I think the lawyers here by putting out this information have been trying to build a case to explain why they don't want their client, Donald Trump, to sit down with special counsel. And doing so, however, raises a lot of questions, of course, about
what that actually means, why the president wouldn't agree, and what he risks perhaps hiding, he's been tweeting today that he has nothing to hide. But it also raises or points even bigger arrows to the misstatements, untruths and somewhat lies coming out from this White House regarding this whole thing.
BALDWIN: You go back to Trey Gowdy, a Republican in his own words: "If you're innocent act like it." If you see, and we have been hearing these lies time and time again. It makes you wonder what do you have to hide?
HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. We heard that from Trey Gowdy a few months ago. We heard more recently from Trey Gowdy, in terms of this unsubstantiated Spygate the president has been pushing. And the president is choosing not to take Trey Gowdy's counsel here. You don't see many Republicans on the House side sticking up for Trey Gowdy's line of argument here. When you talk about the president we've seen has tried to muddy the waters on this investigation for a long time, we're seeing that have an impact on Republicans in terms of the electorate. We're seeing Republican candidates running for office. Endearing themselves to the president and echoing the way in which he describes this investigation as a witch hunt. What the president is doing is having an impact so far.
BALDWIN: Thank you very much. And also, to Mark and Michael, stay with me here, again, we're watching and waiting for this White House briefing to happen. We'll take it live, in the meantime, coming up, don't call it a summit, what the president is saying about his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-Un in a couple days in Singapore.
Why former President Bill Clinton says he did the right thing during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and does not owe her a personal apology. Live pictures inside that briefing room, what will Sarah Sanders say about the latest inconsistencies coming from the White House. Stay with me, it's a Monday afternoon and you're watching CNN.
[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: Let's talk about this summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, eight days to go until he meets with Kim Jong-Un. The date is June 12th, there's still a lot that has yet to be decided like where exactly in Singapore this meeting will be held. Who pays for it, who sits where around the table? It's actual purpose. A source familiar with the North Korea discussions tell CNN that the Trump/Kim summit will be more of a meet and greet rather than any realization of historic action. And at the same time North Korea now says Kim plans to sit down with another leader, Basha Al Assad. North Korea's state news agency says the Syrian president is planning to visit Kim in North Korea.
Let's go to former ambassador, Joseph Yun, who served as the U.S. point person for North Korea. Let's begin with the meet and greet point. This is what a source is telling Michelle Kosinski that this summit will amount to. Does this give North Korea too much of a propaganda win? This great photo offer Kim Jong-Un without any real concessions on the table.
JOSEPH YUN, FORMER AMBASSADOR: I think this is smart bit of expectations managing from the White House, and in President Trump.
[14:20:00] I really cannot believe all it will be is meet and greet, there has to be something, something on denuclearization. And something on security side that has to come out of the Singapore meeting, otherwise, you and I talked about it last week, folks from not just from the United States, South Korea, japan, would be all over and real credibility of how this administration deals with North Korea would be terribly, terribly hurt. I do expect something substantial to come out. But now, White House has done an excellent job of expectations management.
More than that, I think North Koreans have done a great job of pulling back this -- to the extent where they really don't have to give much.
BALDWIN: How about the logistics? This is the piece that totally fascinates me, ambassador. "The New York Times" is reporting the details are still being ironed out for Singapore, and including exactly where it will be held. Might it be the Shangri-La where a lot of the presidents have stayed or Sentosa, this man made recreational island. What is the shape of the table, who sits where, you tell me why this matters and what needs to be considered?
YUN: I think this matters greatly for the optics, who is the one coming out and greeting? Do they arrive at the same time, and who is the host, who is not the host? Obviously on this occasion, Singapore is the host, what role does the host play? And the -- is it going to be at the hotel where President Trump stays? Or where Kim Jong-Un stays. That matters, my guess is neither of those, it's going to be at a neutral location where the Singaporeans will pull the two together. And of course, Singaporeans will make a quick exit and they will go in as equals to that meeting. And the other item that is of interest is, of course, who will pay. I really doubt North Koreans can afford to pay. I think our guys, White House State Department have a tough job.
BALDWIN: They said they wouldn't, right? They said the U.S. wouldn't want to pay, it's South Korea who paid for the North Koreans to come to the Olympics, how did they square this one?
YUN: I think ultimately, we are going to have to help North Koreans to find a way to foot the bill. Either Singaporeans, South Koreans, someone else will have to pay and maybe it won't go -- will go unpaid for a while. I really doubt North Koreans would pick up the tab.
BALDWIN: OK, last one quickly on McDonalds, NBC is reporting there's an intel report that Kim Jong-Un is about to -- or eventually will allow a McDonald's into the country as a show of good will to the U.S. we know President Trump loves his cheeseburgers. What do you make of that report?
YUN: We've known for a while that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un really likes big macs. And there were reports that he had them flown in from Beijing. I mean, it takes a while to get flown in. I don't know how good they taste once they're flown in. Also, McDonald's have taken pride in opening new places. And so, the idea that McDonald's goes with opening a business for the U.S. is a long cherished one. I would not be surprised at all if McDonald's is among the earlier of U.S. investors in North Korea.
BALDWIN: How about that. A big mac coming in from Beijing, I don't know. Joseph Yun, thank you so much.
YUN: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you. Still ahead here, out of Arizona, this killing spree, four people dead in three days. One a prominent forensic psychologist connected to the Jon Benet Ramsey case. Now the manhunt is finally over as police discover the suspected shooter is dead. What we know ahead.
We are waiting for that White House briefing to begin. With the president tweeting about pardoning himself, and the letter to Robert Mueller, a lot for Sarah Sanders to answer to here, we're going to take it live as soon as it begins, we'll be right back.
[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: Investigators in Arizona say they found the gunman wanted in a three-day killing spree. The suspect was found today get aside a Phoenix area hotel. Investigators say this morning he killed himself when S.W.A.T. teams surrounded his room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SGT. VINCE LEWIS, PHOENIX POLICE: Over the last day and a half, that suspect was tracked to a room at the Extended Stay early this morning, a Phoenix police tactical team set up on that room. Evacuated the adjacent rooms. During that operation shots were fired inside the suspect's room nobody was injured outside of that room, our tactical team did make entry into that room and located the suspect deceased from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.
[14:30:00] BALDWIN: there had been a frantic search for him based upon this sketch. He remains unidentified. But remains wanted in the shooting deaths of four people, two paralegals and two mental health professionals. The first victim killed was Stephen Pitt, a prominent forensic psychiatrist connected to a number of high-profile cases including the Jon Benet Ramsey case. Let's go straight to the scene there in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Nick Watt is there. Tell me what you know about this guy and how police found him in that hotel.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, I'm going to say the suspect may be dead, but there could be another shooting victim. Right now, it looks like a coroner's gurney going into that house. We don't know if that is connected at all to this case, this is the extended stay hotel where the suspect killed himself this morning, the tactical team was closing in on him, they were evacuating people from the surrounding rooms in the hotel when they heard that gunfire from within the suspect's room. They believe he killed himself --