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Trump Gave Bill Barr Sweeping New Powers in Russia Probe Review; British Prime Minister to Resign June 7th Amid Brexit Backlash; Video of Pelosi Slurring Her Words Goes Viral; President Trump Announces $16 Billion Bailout to Farmers Hurt By Trade War. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:28] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good Friday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto has the day off.

And President Trump is soon to take off for Japan, the UK and France, but not before giving his attorney general new and really extraordinary powers to investigate what they both allege was the FBI, quote, "spying" on the Trump campaign in 2016.

Overnight the president put the entire United States intelligence apparatus, that is 16 separate agencies, virtually at Barr's disposal as the attorney general spearheads the third and latest probe of just how the Russia investigation all began. But that's not all. The president also gave Barr complete authority to make public any sensitive or classified intelligence that he wants. Even while refusing -- ironic -- to let Congress see any of the underlying intel of the Mueller report.

Our Ivan Perez, our senior justice correspondent, joins me to break this down.

Irony aside for the moment about the White House calling for full transparency here. Right?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No, absolutely.

HARLOW: What do these new powers mean that Bill Barr now got overnight?

PEREZ: Well, exactly. This is extraordinary, as you said, for the attorney general who is a noted vocal skeptic of the origins of the Russia investigation to now have the power to essentially go to the CIA, to the director of National Intelligence, to all the other intelligence agencies that were working with the FBI at the beginning of this investigation and have them declassify, have them essentially make public information that he believes needs to be made public as part of his investigation of the investigation.

Let me read a part of what the president's order said, it says, quote, :"The attorney general may declassify, downgrade or direct the declassification or downgrading of information or intelligence that relates to the attorney general's review." And this is a review, as you know, Poppy, that is directing for the

Justice Department to do to look at how this investigation started. By the way, this is something that Rod Rosenstein had looked at and had resisted. This is why -- one reason why the president is a lot more -- a lot happier with Bill Barr as attorney general because he is getting a lot of what he wanted to be done about the Russia investigation.

The reason, you know, the president is happy is because you've heard from Barr exactly how he feels about this investigation. Take a listen to him on Capitol Hill just a couple of weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think there was -- spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: And, of course, Poppy, you know that people -- a lot of people reacted very strongly to that, including the FBI, saying that that's -- director of FBI, Chris Wray, who said he doesn't -- that's not a word he would use, spying.

Here is Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, reacting to the news today. He says, quote, "While Trump stonewalls the public from learning the truth about his obstruction of justice, Trump and Barr conspire to weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies. The cover-up has entered a new and dangerous phase. This is un-American."

Clearly, Poppy, I think we're going to hear a lot more about this in the coming weeks and months as this investigation at the Justice Department continues and we'll see exactly what Bill Barr decides needs to be made public to expose what he believes were some shady, perhaps.

HARLOW: Yes.

PEREZ: You know, goings on at the intelligence agency since the beginning of this investigation.

HARLOW: Yes. Right. And by the way, there's already two states attorneys general looking into this in Utah and Connecticut as well.

PEREZ: And the inspector general.

HARLOW: Yes, that's true, Michael Horowitz as reported.

PEREZ: Right.

HARLOW: So this is like a fourth one. All right. We'll get to that in a moment.

Evan, appreciate the reporting.

PEREZ: Sure.

HARLOW: Let me bring in former attorney for the NSA, Susan Hennessey.

Good morning. So good to have your brain power on this this morning, Susan, because it's not just Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intel Committee, who is saying that it's dangerous for the attorney general to have this power to do this. You also have the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: There's already been so much information declassified already that -- particularly in the form of the Mueller report and the previous indictments. I wonder what else is going to be declassified that risks jeopardizing sources and methods.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Do you agree with those concerns or are they overblown?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I think Clapper is right that this actually is representing something quite dangerous and that's that ordinarily whenever we think about sources and methods and classified information and what information the United States government wants to protect, the concerns that we're worried about are national security concerns and not political concerns.

[09:05:14] So one of the things that's so alarming is that the president has decided to shift this authority from the director of National Intelligence to the attorney general. The director of National Intelligence sits over an interagency process, he is the one who is able to see what the consequences of declassifying information might be for the national security and intelligence equities of the United States.

So the idea that the president would put this -- put this new authority with the attorney general, someone who is not best positioned to understand the consequences of declassifying that decision I think is an indication that the way the president and --

HARLOW: So --

HENNESSEY: And the attorney general are thinking about this is not about the protection of national security, but the --

HARLOW: Yes.

HENNESSEY: The potential political benefits.

HARLOW: I mean, so you're saying this should really be authority given to Dan Coats?

HENNESSEY: Well, Dan Coats traditionally already has this authority. The DNI sits over all of those other agencies. HARLOW: Right.

HENNESSEY: There is a process that exists for interagency to review. And the information we're talking about here is the most sensitive form of information. Reportedly the attorney general is interested in the CIA's human assets in Russia. That's the kind of information that if disclosed really could have life and death consequences for people.

HARLOW: Yes. You know, it's -- because the authority given to the attorney general -- or the direction given to the attorney general here from the president is not only -- should these 16 agencies report to you on this and dig into this and make this a priority, you can and should -- you know, feel free to declassify this and use that power.

So let me ask you about this, because I mentioned it with Evan. You know, you've got Michael Horowitz, the IG's report expected to be done potentially very soon in June. You've got the U.S. attorney in Utah already looking into this. Recently we saw the attorney general, Bill Barr, tapped the U.S. attorney in Connecticut to do the same thing and now we have this, the president ordering Barr to do this.

Should we expect all of the supporting intel to come out at the same time, Susan -- here's the ironic part -- that Congress has no access to the supporting intel underlying the Mueller report?

HENNESSEY: Right. So it's not exactly clear which investigations are going to be prioritized. Bill Barr has not explained why he doesn't think that the -- that the inspector general's investigation is going to be sufficient. There's something else that's really significant about this latest investigation, both the executive order allowing Barr to declassify information and this new inquiry in the -- by the U.S. attorney in Connecticut and that's that this is not a criminal investigation.

I think it's safe to say that if there was a criminal predicate, which is required to have a criminal investigation, Bill Barr would be inclined to do that, right. We've seen him really be supportive of the president's position. And so the mere fact that instead he's launching yet another -- a third and fourth sort of vague reviewed, not an actual investigation, I do think it's a pretty strong indication that even after these reviews we've already seen there is no criminal predicate that would actually support continuing to investigate this further.

HARLOW: OK. Susan Hennessey, thank you very much.

Let's keep talking about this with my next guest, Patrick Healy is here with the "New York Times," their political editor and also a CNN political analyst.

Good morning to you.

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, Poppy.

HARLOW: This is about the origins. How did this thing get started. And the man who was the former FBI general counsel at the time who signed off on this probe, James Baker, took the rare step of publicly defending it when he explained it was this Australian diplomat who came forward and said look, loose lips of George Papadopoulos at a bar, talking about dirt on HRC, thousands of e-mails. Here's how James Baker put it publicly. Let's listen.

OK, we don't have it. Let me read it to you. I'm sorry. Yes, let me pull it up. He said, quote, "It would have been a dereliction of our duty not to investigate this information."

Is he wrong? Should the feds look the other way?

HEALY: No, the feds should not have looked the other way. And what President Trump is trying to do is say, even though the step-by-step process that started this investigation has been laid out over and over again, President Trump is trying to focus on this kind of broader conspiracy idea about a deep state within the government that was spying on him, that was targeting him, that was treating him unfairly and now he has an attorney general who is willing to carry water on that argument, who is willing to use the language like spying, who is willing to sort of embrace some of these, you know, deeper conspiracy theories that the president is putting forward.

So the original investigation has been validated over and over and over again, but right now it has become so much in President Trump's own interest, in his own mind to discredit, discredit, discredit. And now you're seeing things like this extraordinary power being given to an attorney general who he trusts so much to carry that water where he didn't with someone like Jeff Sessions.

HARLOW: Who -- an attorney general who just, you know, this week in an interesting interview with the "Wall Street Journal" made the claim that I am not protecting this president, says Attorney General Bill Barr, I am protecting the presidency.

[09:10:10] I wonder, though, I just laid out the four different now investigations into the origins of the Russia probe.

HEALY: Right.

HARLOW: What if they don't all have the same result?

HEALY: That's a good question. I mean, at the end of the day where President Trump wants Bill Barr to end up is similar to what Barr did with the Mueller report when it first came out. Bob Mueller submitted essentially kind of an executive summary that we now know he wanted or at least his team wanted to be put out there, but Bill Barr instead put out that letter, as we all remember, that kind of four-page letter that really framed the narrative in exactly the way that President Trump wanted, and now you have President Trump giving the attorney general these powers to declassify information.

And what the intelligence agencies are worried about is that the attorney general will selectively, will cherry pick documents.

HARLOW: What is declassified.

HEALY: What is declassified to set a narrative --

HARLOW: That's a really good point.

HEALY: To set a narrative just like he did in that first opening weekend, you know, when the Mueller report came out. So even though there are these sort of four investigations.

HARLOW: Yes.

HEALY: That could lead to different places, what's in the interest now is that President Trump trusts this attorney general so much to set a narrative to choose declassification that might work in his interest.

HARLOW: Let me very quickly ask you before we go, flip the script here, though. Are Democrats hurting their push for transparency on the Mueller report if they fight this with Barr? Does that make sense?

HEALY: It makes sense. I think at the end of the day the Democrats are trying to find a way, it's so hard not to get boxed in on impeachment, that they're making the argument for transparency, sort of knowing that President Trump is never going to give them ultimately what they want. So they think that they have some running room there to create pressure and not look, let's say, two-faced about it. So we'll see.

HARLOW: There you go. All right. Good to have you, my friend.

HEALY: Thanks, Pop.

HARLOW: Patrick Healy, I appreciate it. Have a good -- I hope long weekend for you.

HEALY: Long weekend.

HARLOW: I'll be here Monday but I hope you won't be at work.

All right. So of course, big breaking news overnight. British Prime Minister Theresa May ending days of speculation this morning announcing she will resign after failing to deliver her trademark Brexit policy. Listen to her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly, I have not been able to do so. I tried three times. I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high. But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: My colleague, our correspondent Phil Black, outside of 10 Downing Street in London,. Good morning, Phil. Look, a lot of people thought this was coming, it

has come and yet Britain remains in tumult, right? Will her successor be able to figure out what she couldn't three times?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Indeed. It is still a great deal of uncertainty ahead, Poppy, and that's the key point is that even with a new prime minister that new prime minister will inherent the same Brexit chaos, the same divided parliament. He or she will have the same minority government as well.

But today Prime Minister May accepted really the inevitable. She had run out of room to move. She had run out of options. She essentially stood here in Downing Street today and said I always meant well but ultimately I failed on that one key defining issue of the times which was to deliver a deal which allows Britain to exit the European Union in a reasonably ordered way.

So what happens now? Well, Prime Minister May will remain prime minister in name, if not in full authority. Certainly up until June 7th, which means she will be in control here as Britain hosts President Trump on his state visit in early June. She will then essentially become something of a caretaker prime minister into June and perhaps July as well as the Conservative Party begins an internal contest to find out precisely who her successor will be.

The leading candidate is former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, someone who has a very high profile here, someone here who is known very well to President Trump who the president has said in the past that he believes would make a fine prime minister -- Poppy.

HARLOW: That's right. And this as the president heads there.

Phil, let me ask you before you go, I mean, this has implications far outside of just the UK or the EU. This has global implications. What will happen to economies around the world. How are other world leaders reacting to it this morning?

BLACK: Well, across Europe, European leaders have been responding and expressing their gratitude and their respect for the way that she has negotiated with them over the last three years or so in trying to sort out some sort of orderly Brexit deal.

[09:15:00]

They are deeply aware of the pressure that she has been facing domestically. Aware of the pressure that she has been facing within her own party, where a solid branch of that party really wanted her to take a very strong line against the European Union, perhaps walk away without achieving any sort of deal whatsoever.

These same European leaders will now be aware and a little nervous because they know that her successor is very likely to come from that hard Brexiteer wing of the party, and so may not be quite so easy to deal with in the weeks and months ahead, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, HOST, NEWSROOM: It's a great point, Phil Black, thank you, outside of 10 Downing Street in London for us this morning. Still to come, crudely edited videos doctored to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sound drunk and stammering. They are making their way across social media, some even retweeted by the president's allies. Those videos have already been viewed millions of times.

Plus, President Trump announcing a $16 billion aid package for America's farmers as the trade war with China takes a bite out of their bottom line. But do the farmers really want this, and frankly, does it help them in the way they need? We will speak with one ahead.

And House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler now says special counsel Robert Mueller wants to testify in private to avoid a political spectacle. New details ahead.

[09:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right, happening right now in Pennsylvania, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is at an event to talk about college affordability with the lack thereof. We will see if she says anything about her escalating feud with the president that grows more personal especially in the last 24 hours.

Speaker Pelosi took a shot at the president's mental state, asking for a Trump family intervention of the president shot back, calling her crazy Nancy and a mess. OK, it's like four-year-old stuff here. As the two leaders go back and forth, a source close to the White House tells CNN, the Pelosi quote hasn't gotten under his skin, but got his attention.

Let's go to our colleague Lauren Fox, she's on Capitol Hill this morning. And you, Lauren, have been talking to Senate Republicans, they're telling you enough of this.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that's right, you know, I think some Senate Republicans understand the president's frustration, they say the Democrats in the House are attacking the president, his family, his finances, those are all very personal things for the president of the United States.

But they also say, you know, you have to rise above and get some work done. But you know, interestingly, they're also getting a little bit frustrated with the fact that they don't have really a clear legislative agenda. They've been doing a lot of nominees on the floor of the U.S. Senate, they did pass that Disaster Aid bill yesterday.

But it took quite a bit of starts and stops to get a bill that Republicans and Democrats could actually get behind. You know, they say basically because it's divided government, but because Democrats in the House are spending so much time on these investigations, they are having a hard time breaking through with any kind of legislative agenda.

There's also of course, that 2020 election to look forward to, there are a lot of Republicans in the Senate who are up for re-election in tough states there. You know, one Republican senator I talked to said, quote, "I'm not sure what our legislative agenda is right now." That person also said that they weren't even sure that you could find a member of the United States Senate who could tell you what that agenda is. Now, you know, some Republicans basically say we would do more if we could, if we had the support of the House of Representatives.

But for now, you know, if Democrats are going to block everything and they're going to take up so much time on the floor of the Senate, you know, the best we're going to be able to do is nominees and they're OK with that. Poppy?

HARLOW: All right, yes, Lauren Fox, thank you very much. As this feud intensifies, a disturbing new trend is emerging. This is a really big deal, doctored videos, they're so-called sort of deep fakes, they look shockingly real. One such video of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appearing to slur her speech at an event earlier this week has been made.

It's been viewed millions of times on the internet, but it's not real. It's fake. We're going to show you the real one first, and then the fake one, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): And then you have a press conference in the Rose Garden with all this sort of visuals that obviously were planned long before. And then you have a press conference in the Rose Garden with all this sort of visuals that obviously were planned long before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Right, you see the difference. That fake video is still circulating all over social media, even though YouTube has taken it down. Another carefully edited marsh up of Pelosi makes her appear awkward and stammering, that actually aired on "Fox Business News".

President Trump had a video of that from "Fox Business" pinned to his Twitter page and took -- just about an hour ago. Let's talk about that with Bill Carter; former media reporter of the "New York Times". Bill, it's good to have you here. This is --

BILL CARTER, FORMER MEDIA REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Nice to be here.

HARLOW: This is really scary and --

CARTER: Well --

HARLOW: This is not going away and I'm fearful this is going to be all over the 2020 election.

CARTER: It's a signal obviously that anything goes here. Anything goes. I mean, look, Trump always reacts when he's attacked by attacking in a way that's even lower, in the gutter kind of. And his forces don't mind this, he likes to play this game and he was looking for a nick name for her. So now, it's going to be crazy. It's going to be crazy and he's got -- and all this is going to be supported by whatever they can come up with. But you're right, it's a signal for where it's going to go because this is going to be manipulated all over the place. No matter what people think is true, they're going to have to question it, when they see something on -- especially online.

HARLOW: You know, all right, so this time, it happens to Nancy Pelosi --

CARTER: Yes --

HARLOW: But this could just as easily happened to the president who speaks publicly --

CARTER: Well --

HARLOW: All the time.

[09:25:00] CARTER: And it does happen to the president unlike comedy shows.

HARLOW: Yes --

CARTER: Jimmy Kimmel has thrown a lot of things where he slows it down and makes him sound drunk. Actually, he's done the exact same thing for comedy purposes, everybody knows it's a mock. But it's been used here as though this is the way she really is.

And they're trying to say, she's like losing it, like, she's -- you know, becoming, you know, senile. They're going to try to push that line --

HARLOW: Yes --

CARTER: And you know, it's pretty dirty tactics. It's politics and it's worse, really.

HARLOW: And I should note, these videos that we've shown you this morning, they're not the same as deep fakes. But that is --

CARTER: Right --

HARLOW: The technology --

CARTER: Yes --

HARLOW: That has been used to basically replace someone's face on a different body --

CARTER: Yes --

HARLOW: And it all looks real, and it's sort of in the same family of issues. I think --

CARTER: Well -- HARLOW: That social media and technology and the internet are

presenting us in 2020 --

CARTER: Yes --

HARLOW: In this election.

CARTER: And, in fact, a lot of people are saying this is a very crude example because it's pretty obviously done this way. But there's so many people sharing it, and then you have the president retweeting. That wasn't a doctored video, that was an edited video where he --

HARLOW: Right --

CARTER: They speeded her up, they repeated things, they made it look like she was stammering. That was an edited video. But you know, the idea that he then sends it out to 60 million followers or something, that's -- you clearly are using technology to send a false message this way.

HARLOW: A video that is edited to look like something that it was not.

CARTER: Yes --

HARLOW: Posted on Twitter by the president of the United States --

CARTER: Of the United States. We should not be surprised that the president of the United States, this president is doing something no other president would ever do because he doesn't have the responsibility gene, he doesn't have a conscience really.

He'll attack anyone who attacks him, and he doesn't really think about it. We shouldn't be surprised by it, but I do think it's a signal that it's going to get worse. It's also a sign that I think he's really desperate and upset with the way --

HARLOW: But Bill, just --

CARTER: He's being attacked.

HARLOW: Politics aside. Who is responsible for monitoring this stuff, taking it down? Facebook, YouTube --

CARTER: Yes, well, that's a really good question --

HARLOW: Took this down, but after how long?

CARTER: YouTube took it down relatively quickly --

HARLOW: Yes --

CARTER: Facebook, it's still up, at least it was the last I heard. And Facebook goes through -- because Facebook allows you to do a mock video, they would allow Jimmy Kimmel to do it as a mock video. So they sort of have to go through this process. Meanwhile, it's been circulated around the world --

HARLOW: Oh, my goodness --

CARTER: Be like that old thing about a lie going around the world, it's very fast.

HARLOW: Travels fast.

CARTER: Yes.

HARLOW: Bill Carter, thank you very much --

CARTER: Nice to be with you, Poppy.

HARLOW: As the president announces a second multi-billion dollar aid package for U.S. farmers and ranchers, we will talk to a fourth generation farmer who says, look, this is not helping us, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:30:00]