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FBI Chief Distances Himself from A.G. Barr's Use of "Spying" on Origins of Investigation into Trump Campaign; Pompeo Bails on Berlin Meeting, Next Stop Is a Mystery; Mystery Surrounds Threat Administration Says Led to Sending Carrier Strike Group to Persian Gulf; Pompeo Touts Economic Benefits of Melting Sea Ice Despite Dire Warnings. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 7, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:10] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Spying or surveillance? That is again the question today as the director of the FBI breaks with the attorney general. It was just last month that Bill Barr used that very word "spying" when he told Congress that he was concerned that the government had illegally spied on the Trump campaign in 2016.

And moments ago, the FBI Director Chris Wray, he distanced himself from that in testimony before the Senate. Watch this.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: Well, that's not the term I would use.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Thank you. So I would say that's a no to that question.

WRAY: Well, I mean, look, there are lots of people who have different colloquial phrases. I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes.


BOLDUAN: Keep in mind, this is the very same FBI director that works hand in hand with that very same attorney general, an A.G. that surprised lawmakers when he not only used the word "spying" but then doubled down on it in the same hearing.

Here is the moment last month that started the whole thing with Bill Barr.


SHAHEEN: So you're not suggesting, though, that spying occurred? WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't -- well, I guess you

could -- I think that spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur.

SHAHEEN: Well, let me --


BARR: But the question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated. I'm not suggesting it wasn't adequately predicated but I need to explore that.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Jessica Schneider is in Washington with much more on this.

Jessica, what else did Director Wray say?.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can see the split screen, Kate.


SCHNEIDER: The FBI director pressed on the use of the phrase "spying." It was the same Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, who questioned the attorney general. And this Senator pressed Director Wray on whether he agrees with Barr's use of the word "spying." And really, Director Wray did his best to kind of dance around the question. He refused to directly say that Barr used the wrong term, but instead, Director Wray delicately said that that is not the term he would use.

And really, this was a long line of questioning where the director really stood by the practices and procedures of the FBI. It started with Senator Shaheen asking if the FBI generally secures warrants for any type of surveillance. To that, Director Wray said yes, all warrants always are secured properly through the right channels for investigative work. Then, the Senator asked specifically about any surveillance of people involved in the Trump campaign. Of course, that includes Carter Page, whose surveillance began after he left the campaign, and it was approved by a FISA court. And to that, Director Wray said that there were a number of warrants that, importantly, were lawfully secured.

And then the final question on this topic from the Senator. Here it is.


SHAHEEN: At this time, do you have any evidence that any illegal surveillance into the campaigns or individuals associated with the campaigns by the FBI occurred?

WRAY: I don't think I personally have any evidence of that sort.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHNEIDER: So the director there saying he doesn't have any evidence that it was illegal surveillance.

The FBI director also stressed, of course, there's this ongoing inspector general investigation into the FBI's actions in the 2016 campaign. Plus, like you said at the top, Director Wray is working with the attorney general as the Justice Department also probes how this Russia investigation started. But trying to walk a delicate balance there, answering the questions about the term "spying" -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, it's a really amazing moment we're watching here. And a big statement that Christopher Wray knew what he was being asked, no question about it.


BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Jessica. Thank you so much.

Also this. Moments ago, the top Republican in the Senate, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, took to the Senate floor to offer his, we'll say, his final assessment of the Mueller report. As far as McConnell is concerned, case closed.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill.

Phil, what did Mitch McConnell have to say?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, it was a lengthy speech. It's one I'm told he had been working on, he and his team had been working on for more than a week. And it was basically a rundown, a litany of complaints, concerns, attacks on Democrats, on the media for how they covered the investigation, going into details about one thing that he noted, and I think kind of his conclusion from what he's read in the report, is as it relates to any conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Here is what he said about that.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): And on this central question, the special counsel's finding is clear. Case closed. Case closed. This ought to be good news for everyone. But my Democratic colleagues seem to be publicly working through the five stages of grief. Our colleagues across the aisle want to shoot the messenger and keep the perpetual outrage machine right on going. Even undermining the institution of the attorney general itself in the process.


[11:05:25] MATTINGLY: So that's where the majority leader stands. To be honest, in talking to a lot of his Republican colleagues, not all, butts most of his Republican colleagues in both the House and the Senate, they agree with the assessment that it's time to move on, even as there's a move to hear from Robert Mueller and wide-ranging investigations into the Russian activities in 2016 by House Democrats that now control the chamber.

I would note though, I listened to the speech and reread the remarks. There's no defense of the president explicitly, particularly when it comes to obstruction, which is laid out in an entire volume in the report itself. McConnell is explicitly talking about Russian activities and the allegations of potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Now, Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, took to the floor right after and had a pretty strong retort, saying the majority leader was whitewashing the report, saying he had never taking the Russian interference and the allegations of Russian interference seriously, underscoring the effects Democrats and Republicans are two different universes when it comes to the report, the wake of the report, and what's going to happen next.

But if you wanted to know what Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill, thinks about things, he gave a very, very lengthy speech about the Mueller report. And to your point, he would like it probably to be the final word. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he's probably still going to get questions for the next couple weeks as this remains top of mind, but these are his views, his opinions, and they have been laid out on the Senate floor -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: He probably will continue with not answering questions in a hallway. Just a guess.

Phil, if you could, I want to talk about McConnell, but I want you to stick around because we're going to talk about what Chris Wray has been talking about on Capitol Hill at the same time.

Also joining us is Elliot Williams. He served as deputy assistant attorney general under President Obama.

Thank you guys so much.

Thank you, Elliot, so much for jumping on.

Elliot, let me start with you on what Jessica Schneider was laying out that Chris Wray said today. The FBI director, he knew what he was being asked. There's no question about it. And he's been very careful, as we have seen, in trying to stay out of politics as much as one can. What do you make of what he said? Distancing himself from the attorney general, from that word "spying."

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it's just a matter of time before he's out, too. Because it seems that individuals in the Justice Department at the highest levels who seem to state the facts and the law as they exist seem to not do well, as we saw with Jeff Sessions and on down, the White House counsel as well. I served under Christopher Wray when he was head of the Criminal Division of the DOJ. He has a --


WILLIAMS: Yes. He has a reputation for being a prosecutor. Look, Attorney General Barr ought to have known what he was saying when he used the word "spying." We've been through this before.

BOLDUAN: But you don't believe it when we heard from sources around Barr who said he uses that word. He didn't think it meant anything more than surveillance essentially.

WILLIAMS: That's a big word to use in congressional testimony knowing full well what the connotation -- as a prosecutor, as a former prosecutor, a current prosecutor, knowing full well what the connotations of the term "spying" are versus "legally authorized surveillance." We're not talking about rats and "Godfather" stuff here. You're literally talking about the courts having authorized this surveillance. It's a very imprecise word to use at best, and perhaps even worse than that.

BOLDUAN: Also, Elliot, Chris Wray, he also said in his testimony that he personally doesn't have evidence of illegal surveillance of the 2016 presidential campaigns. But Barr, again, back in April, he said that, in his words, that he said, quote, "There's a basis for his concern" about that exact point.

I wanted to get your take on this. Are they splitting hairs here or something else happening?

WILLIAMS: They might be but, once again, we seem to see the attorney general on the wrong side of another serious career prosecutor. I think the inspector general is looking into this. He has a reputation of being an individual with a long record of honesty and fidelity to the law. We'll see what comes out of the in inspector general report. Maybe everybody will be happy with the findings, maybe no one will, but we'll see. They might be splitting hairs or, once again, the attorney general might be leaning into protecting the interests of the president, which we have seen over the last month or so.


Phil, let me bring you back in. Because I do want to ask you more about the statement coming from Mitch McConnell. Him, essentially saying that it's case closed. If that's the final word or not, in terms of it, we can probably guess. But I think it shouldn't be lost on folks, as you well know, that McConnell uses his floor speeches to make big statements. It's not just to make announcements. Especially when it's projected that he's going to be saying something, watch at 10:00, folks. What do you really think McConnell was trying to do here? Because he knows it's not going to stop Democrats from continuing to pursue the investigations they're doing.

[11:10:15] MATTINGLY: I think there's a couple things. To your point, it was telegraphed this was coming. They made very clear, his team and his operation, that they wanted this to be known, that they wanted everybody to pay attention at 10:00 a.m. When you know the Senate majority leader is going to come to the floor, we also pay attention because he's teeing up whatever the message is for the day, whatever the focus is for the day, or whatever he wants the rest of his conference to align with over the course of the next couple days. I think it's the last point that's most important. The majority leader is setting down a marker here. You have seep Republicans kind of try to figure out their way post-report, whether that means Mueller needs to testify, whether that means there needs to be further investigations on this. The Senate majority leader is putting down his final stamp, in his opinion, I think, about where this ends and what Republicans want to do going forward. He mentioned they want to legislate. They want to do other things besides focus on this issue that, in their eyes, has kind of overtaken the better part of the last two and a half years. A position that does align with where the White House is. What the majority leader does, the context of how Mitch McConnell works -- and, Kate, you know this as well as anybody -- is everyone he's doing is generally either to reflect or to try to protect his conference. And I think when he makes this statement, that's exactly what he's trying to do on this very explicit and very explosive issue that has overtaken Capitol Hill.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, Phil, when it comes to a discussion of interference in the 2016 campaign, Mitch McConnell, he played a role. I'm trying to be careful in my language. He played a role in the narrative that we heard from President Trump a lot, which is, why didn't Obama do more during the campaign to stop Russia or call out Russian interference if they knew it was happening at the time. It's a complicated history there.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it is. And there's a dispute over what actually happened. Several Obama administration officials say Mitch McConnell, when they were trying to put out a joint statement with congressional leaders, law enforcement officials during the campaign, wanted to water down the statement. The McConnell team has objected to that strenuously over the course of the last couple years, if you go through the history. Mitch McConnell said he's very comfortable about the role he played during that time. It's important to note Democrats feel like he undercut the Obama administration's efforts. If you want to know where Mitch McConnell stands, he just laid out all the problems he had with the Obama administration's efforts to push back on Russian aggression in 2016. This dispute isn't going away any time soon. To your point, there's a real history here, and one the parties just, frankly, disagree on.


Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.

Elliot, really appreciate it.

Phil, thanks.

Really appreciate it guys.

Coming up for us, she has been with Joe Biden through the ups and downs of a long political career. Now, Dr. Jill Biden is getting back on the campaign trail and opening up in a new interview with CNN.

Plus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suddenly scraps a meeting with a key ally, and then he apparently goes missing. What is going on here?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:18:02] BOLDUAN: Where in the world is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo going? Even the reporters traveling with him right now don't know. One thing we do know is he's not in Germany or headed there. That's because the secretary of state abruptly canceled his meeting there today with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. What happened? The State Department is only saying it was because of, quote, "pressing issues." Something so pressing he essentially stood up one of America's key allies.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski is at the State Department joining me with more.

Michelle, what are you picking up? What's going on?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: It's not every day we say the secretary of state abruptly changed his planned trip. We don't know exactly where he is right now. And we're not allowed to say where he's going. But that's the situation. So the State Department is saying very little, as you know. And reporters traveling with him were told, we can't tell you exactly where we're going. By the way, you might not be able to say where we are, what we're doing there, until after we leave that location. But the U.S. has made some very dramatic statements and moves over the last few days to counter Iran. It is possible, then, that this might have something to do with that. As for the details, we are waiting.

But I will say that the State Department and the U.S. government generally acts this way about travel only when the security situation is so sensitive that for safety reasons they don't disclose locations, say, to a war zone. So I will let that color your thinking as to where exactly he might be headed -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, also, just for our viewers, and you, of course, know, Michelle, it also doesn't come on the heels of abruptly canceling a meeting with a key ally. It's a long-planned, often, trip that isn't discussed until, for national security reasons, they're in a place of safety. That's what makes this so unusual.

KOSINSKI: Yes, and urgency is the key here. The U.S., just days ago, moved a carrier strike group to near Iran to counter what they say were threats from Iranians or their proxies to target U.S. assets or allies in the region. So the U.S. urgently made that move. I think it stands to be seen if, wherever Pompeo is going, is this to take care of something urgently on the ground, or is this another show of force, say, to show Iran that the U.S. isn't going to just take these threats without doing something -- Kate?

[11:20:25] BOLDUAN: Great point, Michelle.

Thank you so much.

Joining me for more on this is a former Democratic governor and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson.

Ambassador, thank you so much for being here. I want to ask you about -- I have a lot to ask you, but about Mike

Pompeo first. What do you -- I mean, what does your gut tell you is going on here? What do you think would rise to the level of canceling such a high- high-profile meeting in such a public way?

BILL RICHARDSON, (D), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS & FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: I think it's unfortunate that meeting was canceled with our main ally in Europe, Germany. I think it's probably over Iran. The United States is mad at our European allies over Iran policy. We put sanctions on their oil imports to Iran. We just declared the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity. We have put a carrier out there. And possibly the view is that our German, our British, our French allies are not helping us, putting legitimate pressure on Iran, which continues to help terrorist groups. Possibly -- and this is not clear. What is the evidence of Iran possibly threatening our troops in Iraq and Syria? So --


BOLDUAN: That is actually something I wanted to ask you about. That's exactly what I wanted to get to you with. Because there's still something of a mystery around the threat that the administration says led to moving this carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf. As Michelle laid out, specific and credible intelligence, is what CNN's reporting is, to Syria and Iraq.

But all of this taken together has become very troubling to Independent Senator Angus King. Listen to what he said this morning to "NEW DAY."


SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): The question is, are we taking steps that are going to lead us toward a war or a real conflict that is dangerous. That's what worries me, is you have Bolton's predisposition, and then you have three or four actions in the last two weeks designed to poke Iran in the eye. I just am uncomfortable about where this is headed.


BOLDUAN: Do you see that?

RICHARDSON: Well, yes. I think both sides, the United States, Iran, should cool it because you don't want a small incident to spark a big conflagration. That's a danger. We also don't want Iran to start enriching uranium. We don't want Iran to stop some of the nuclear inspections. Maybe they're going to pull out of the agreement, which I think is in the interest -- and I disagreed with the administration on pulling out of the agreement. Although, at the same time, Iran is irresponsible in a lot of its foreign policy behavior. I prefer to negotiate with them. I think this is where we need the Europeans. But I think both sides need to cool it.

And I would suspect the secretary of state is going to Moscow, to Russia, to meet with Putin, who is a key player on Iran, even though our relationship with Russia right now is terrible. We can't agree on arms control. We can't agree on Syria, on Ukraine. They won't even meet with us to get the American prisoner, Paul Whelan, out. I tried to do that with a Russian ambassador outside official channels. They won't even meet. I don't know how good, potentially, this trip to Russia might be, but at least maybe, if it happens, he should push hard, Pompeo.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Let me ask you about one other thing. Let's stick on Mike Pompeo. He made quite an argument yesterday, Ambassador, seeming to argue the benefits of climate change in terms of economic value. Let me play you what he said, it looked like, in prepared remarks.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. Arctic sea lanes could come -- could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals.


BOLDUAN: Sea ice levels are dropping because of climate change. To me, it's one thing to dispute the urgency of climate change, but to make the case it's actually a good thing, what do you do with that?

RICHARDSON: Well, I disagree with that statement. I think the administration obviously is, especially in Europe, is under attack for getting out of the climate agreement, the Paris agreement, which I think was a big mistake because it's also a national security issue. And the Arctic, it's very national-security oriented. I think there's concern that we have legitimate that Chinese and Russians are opening up sea lanes strategically. So I think this is what the secretary of state is doing, underscoring the importance of the area. But I think on the climate change area, that's not a very strong argument in my view.

[11:25:15] BOLDUAN: I'm making you giggle, which is actually a difficult task. I try to do it all the time, to get you to laugh. Now I know I need to cite Mike Pompeo on climate change. Got it. Noted.

Governor, Ambassador, thank you so much.

RICHARDSON: Thank you. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Dr. Jill Biden's revealing new interview with CNN. What she says about how she will handle personal attacks coming from President Trump. And how her family has also dealt with, in such a public way, the unimaginable reality of loss. That's next.