Return to Transcripts main page


$19 Billion Disaster and Bill Stalls in House Over Border Wall; Trump Speaks to Reporters As He Leaves for Japan; Chairman Nadler Appears to Faint During News Conference. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 24, 2019 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- for a long period of time, not just Puerto Rico, Florida, in southern states with flooding in the Midwest, fires in California. Now it's going to take a little bit longer to actually get there. But the idea that the president who had been told by members of the House Freedom Caucus do not agree to this bill particularly without your immigration money was willing to sign off.

I think was an interesting element of this --

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Now the president of the United States is about to leave for Japan talking to reporters outside of the White House, you see him walking up. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we want to be very transparent. So as you know I declassified everything, everything they want. I put it under the auspices of the attorney general. He's going to be in charge of it. He's a great gentleman and a highly respected man so everything that they need is declassified. And they'll be able to see how this hoax, how the hoax or witch hunt started and why it started.

It was a -- an attempted coup or an attempted takedown of the president of the United States. It should never ever happen to anybody else so it's very important. Now people have been asking me to declassify for a long period of time. I've decided to do it, and you're going to learn a lot. I hope it's going to be nice, but perhaps it won't be.


TRUMP: We want to have protection in the Middle East. We're going to be sending a large number of troops, mostly protective. And some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now, and we'll see how -- and we'll see what happens.


TRUMP: It will be about 1,500 people.


TRUMP: Sure, that's possible. But I do believe you can't go down two tracks because if you look at judiciary if you look at what's going on, all they talk about in the House is this. I'd like to talk about lowering drug prices which I've done better than any president ever. We had a year -- this year is, you know, drug prices went down, the first time in 51 years. I'd like to talk about it because with Congress I can get prices down 40 percent and 50 percent, but I can't do that when all they do is want to try and do a redo of the Mueller report.

They were very unhappy with the Mueller report. They want to do a redo of the Mueller report. It's over. There is no redo. They lost. It's very clear. There was no collusion, there was no obstruction so there's no redo.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should doctors be forced to perform transgender reassignment surgeries?

TRUMP: We're going to see. We'll see.


TRUMP: I feel bad for Theresa. I like her very much. She's a good woman. She worked very hard. She's very strong. She decided to do something that some people were surprised at and some people weren't.

It's for the good of her country but I like her very much. In fact, I'll be seeing her in two weeks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President, why are you considering pardoning war criminals, and does that endanger our troops?

KING: We're looking at a lot of different pardons for a lot of different people. Some of these soldiers are people that have fought hard, long, you know. We teach them how to be great fighters and when they fight sometimes they get really treated unfairly. So we're going to take a look at it. I haven't done anything yet. I haven't made any decisions.

There's two or three of them right now. It's a little bit controversial. It's very possible that I'll let the trials go on and I'll make my decision after the trial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything to say to Michael Avenatti?

TRUMP: I wish him a lot of luck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you going to talk to Theresa May about (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: I may very well talk to her about that. Yes, the -- there's word and rumor that the FBI and others were involved, CIA was involved with the U.K. having to do with the Russian hoax, and I may very well talk to her about that. Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, has your relationship with Nancy Pelosi soured to the point that it's too personal and some of the altered videos being disseminated. Is that going too far?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know about the videos. I can tell you that what I'm here to help the country. That's why I did this. Our country is doing unbelievably well. We have the best economy we probably ever had. We have the best job numbers we've ever had, we have the best unemployment numbers we've ever had.

With all of the things happening that's what I'm all about. I don't think they can go down two tracks. I want to get drug prices down. I want to get things like if you look at infrastructure and others. I want to get a lot of things done.

I don't think it's -- I don't think they're capable of going down two tracks. So I think they can only do one thing or the other.

[12:35:01] So let them finish the one. What I don't think is right is you do a redo. They were very unhappy with the Mueller report. No collusion, no obstruction no, nothing. They're very unhappy, they're angry about it.

They have to get over their anger. They have to get over -- wait a minute. They have to get over their anger, and they have to get into infrastructure, drug prices and things like that because they want to do a redo. Like even the fact that they're asking Bob Mueller to come and testify.

He just gave them a $434-page report which says no collusion which leads to absolutely no obstruction. He just gave that report. Why does he have to testify? It's ridiculous.

They ought to get on to drug prices, lowering them. We can cut them by 50 or 60 percent. The one thing I'm very proud of also on drug price is, I brought it down first time in 51 years that drug prices went down. But if I could work with Congress we could cut 50 percent and more off drug prices.

I can work with the speaker. Sure. I can work with the speaker. I can absolutely work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want to accomplish with your personal attacks on the speaker You're saying --

TRUMP: Excuse me. This just shows how fake you and the news are. When you say a personal attack -- did you hear what she said about me long before I went after her? Did you hear?

She made horrible statements. She knows they're not true. She made -- she said terrible things, so I just responded in kind. Look, you think Nancy is the same as she was? She's not. Maybe we can all say that, but I think -- frankly, I think right now we are -- I'm only speaking for myself is.

I want to do what's good for the country. I think Nancy Pelosi is not helping this country. I think the Democrats are obstructionists. They are hurting our country very, very badly. We can pass so many different bills right now but all they want to do is investigate because they failed with Robert Mueller and the Mueller report. They want to try to get at a do-over of the Mueller report. It doesn't work that way.

And just so you know, I was the most transparent and am transparent president in history. We gave 500 witnesses. I allowed attorneys to testify in front of Bob Mueller, 2,500 subpoenas, 1.4 million pages of documents. We gave it. I didn't have to give any of it. We gave it, and then we get a great result and they say oh, this is terrible. Let's do it over again. You can't do it. Our country doesn't have that kind of time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if the Barr investigation doesn't turn out the way you think it will?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to see. I gave -- as you know I declassified, I guess, potentially millions of pages of documents. I don't know what it is. I have no idea, but I want to be transparent. Everybody wanted me to declassify. I've done it.

And you could almost say he's the trustee, he's a highly respected man. Our attorney general is in charge. Let's see what he finds, but we have documents now that I have declassified for the purpose of the attorney general. He can then show them to the public, do whatever we want to do with them. But you have to get down to what happened because what happened is a tremendous blight on our country.

What happened, the investigation, they tried to do a takedown, and you can't do that. And let me just tell you. This should never ever happen to another president again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what message do you want to send to military families who are concerned about you sending troops to the Middle East?

TRUMP: Well, I think it's going to be very good in the Middle East. Iran has been a -- as you know, they stage terror all over the world. They're a much different country now than when I first got here. When I first got here, they were at 14 different locations fighting. Right now I don't think Iran wants to fight, and I certainly don't think they want to fight with us, but they cannot have nuclear weapons and under the Obama horrible agreement they would have had nuclear weapons within five or six years. They can't have nuclear weapons, and they understand that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, why should we trust the attorney general to select what's declassified? Even Robert Mueller expressed concerns about the way Barr handled his findings?

TRUMP: The question is so false and so phony. The attorney general -- let me just explain -- let me explain to you something. The attorney general is one of the most respected people in this country, and he has been for a long period of time. [12:40:05] He is going to look at a lot of documents. Some he might find interesting, maybe he'll find none interesting, but for over a year people have asked me to declassify, so what I've done is I've declassified everything. He can look, and I hope he looks at the U.K., and I hope he looks at Australia, and I hope he looks at Ukraine. I hope he looks at everything because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country. It's the greatest hoax -- excuse me. Excuse me. It's the greatest hoax probably in the history of our country and somebody has to get to the bottom of it. We'll see, but for a long period of time they have wanted me to declassify, and I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it about getting payback for these two years?

TRUMP: This is about finding out what happened. I won an election. I won it easily, 306-223. I want it pretty easily, and I'll tell you what. This is all about what happened and when did it happen because this was an attempted takedown of the president of the United States, and we have to find out. Why did somebody write a text message, the two lovers, that if she loses we have an insurance policy, an insurance policy to take down the president? We're going to find out what happened and why it happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds like you want payback.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you -- it's not payback. I don't care about payback. I think it's very important for our country to find out what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you worried that these investigations are hurting your re-election chances?

TRUMP: I don't know, my poll numbers are very good. You don't like to report them but my poll -- I guess we have a 48 today, we have a 51. We have very good poll numbers considering. Now, I have to tell you. If you people would give straight news I'd be at 70. I'd be maybe at 75, but you don't give straight news. You give fake news.

With fake news, I'm still winning the election, but you if you gave serious good news the way you're supposed to I'd probably be at 70 or 75 based on the economy alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, on Iran --

TRUMP: Go ahead. Go ahead.


TRUMP: I just spoke to Prime Minister Modi and I gave him my warmest regards and congratulations.


TRUMP: I just spoke to Prime Minister Modi minutes ago and I just conveyed congratulations on behalf of our country, myself, and everybody. He had a great election win. He's a friend of mine. We have a very good relationship with India.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Iran, sir, on Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- by William Barr? You always said you admire --

TRUMP: No, I just want somebody that's going to be fair, and I think William Barr is the most respected men -- one of the most respected me doing what he does in our whole country. I just want him to be fair. I don't want him to be for me or for anybody else. I just want him to be fair, and that's what he is, and we're going to find out what this yields. But I will tell you, declassifying, people have wanted me to do it for a long time. I think it was very important to do, and basically, what are we doing? We're exposing everything. We're being a word that you like, transparent. We're being ultimately transparent and that's what it's about.

Again, again, this should never ever happen in our country again. Thank you very much.


KING: President Trump there talking to reporters before he boards Marine One. He's headed to Japan for a four-day trip. A lot to break down on what the president talked about there. He spent a lot of time talking about his decision last night to authorize the Attorney General Bill Barr to have sweeping power to review and sweeping power for him to declassify intelligence documents that were at the core of how the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign began.

The president several times saying he wanted to be transparent and many times saying he had already declassified. He has not declassified anything. He's given Bill Barr the opportunity and the right to declassify things and whether or not it would be transparent we don't know. We have no idea what we're going to see from this, but the president there, couple other quick points. He said there was an attempted coup, an attempted takedown.

There's no public evidence of an attempted coup or an attempted takedown. There's some evidence of improper texts between FBI employees that the president says is part of a takedown. But again, the public evidence does not support the president's words on attempted coup, attempted takedown.

There's two other quick points, we'll go on the table. He said he likes Theresa May very much, he's going to see her, the prime minister who just resigned. He has spent months undermining Theresa May and in fact publicly promoting one of her rivals now to become prime minister.

[12:45:02] He also said I don't know about the videos, the doctored videos of Nancy Pelosi. He pinned one atop his Twitter page last night, one made by Fox Business Channel, but he says I don't know about the videos. MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, he says he doesn't know about the video but now for two days he's been making the point of those videos calling her a mess and saying she has problems which is the intended message from these videos. So, you know, he's given a chance to distance himself from that, too, you know, to cast doubts on that and refuse.

The other thing that I thought was interesting there, too, in context was when he was asked about Iran and the decision to move. What I actually think is a couple of thousand troops, not 1,500 like he said into the Middle East. We'll see what happens here. I mean, it certainly looks like a slow buildup, but now this is the second day in a row.

I mean, he's indicated a reluctance to do that. He was asked about it yesterday in the Roosevelt room about whether he would and said he didn't want to. Then the decision came afterward that he would and he got the sense just this morning here at that gaggle outside the White House that he's not really -- you know, all that supportive of this decision talking about they are there mostly protective and a relatively small number, you know. That will be obviously something to watch here.

KING: Definitely something to watch and whether or not there's a follow-up to go beyond whether it's 1,500, 1,800, to tell whether there's a follow-up to go beyond that. The president reluctant -- I want to come back to his constant -- his -- the president there saying, and this is technically correct. He said Bill Barr is the most respected man doing what he's doing. We only have one attorney general, so he would be the most respected and the least respected attorney general of the United States at the moment. But, look, Barr -- you know, I don't mean to make a joke about it because Barr has called his own credibility into doubt by publishing a four-page letter that if you read the Mueller report is completely out of context to what's in the Mueller report.

Bill Barr is now in charge of something that may be healthy and good for the country. Go back and look at the beginnings of this counterintelligence investigation, take the name Trump of it, of a candidate for president and a campaign for president. We should have full transparency. We should look at that. If anyone did anything wrong they should be held accountable but is there any trust in this town that that's what we're going to get?

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Democrats are really worried right now. They're looking at how he handled his four- page memo describing the Mueller report and they don't trust that he's going to not cherry pick information, declassify documents here and there, have conservatives in his ear about what he should make public. And look, I will also just point out what the president making this declassification push. This is a reversal for him. He just said last fall that he wasn't doing do this. And now all of a sudden this week we see him come out with this.

I think he's really trying to change the narrative. You saw him lose two court cases this week in the Democratic oversight battle, growing calls for impeachment. So you're really trying to see him shift that narrative to investigate the investigators.

KING: The Democrats can't see any of the documents, they want to see about the president but Bill Barr can see anything he wants about FBI behavior in the review mirror. And again, I think that could be very well and healthy for the country if it were done in a fair bipartisan transparent or non-partisan transparent way. I just don't think there's a sense in town that that's what's happening.

LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And when you talk about changing the narrative, it's continually striking to me how much of the narrative is structured around 2016 which, you know, happened three years ago. You have a president who's now running for re- election, who has a booming economy. I mean, I feel like we're always making this point particularly at this table but he does, he has a booming economy that any president would love to run on. He could be working towards an infrastructure bill, towards other accomplishments, even passing a sort of basic function of government, a disaster relief bill. And instead, you have him re-litigating something that happened three years ago, and I think it speaks to their strategy as, you know, we've said before of motivating their base but it also feels very cynical to me on both sides.

They -- I think there's a sense in the Trump orbit that if they keep focused on talking about the investigation that allows Democrats not to talk about the things they are passing or trying to pass in terms of their agenda in the House, and I think the Democrats kind of see it a little bit the same way. If the president is fighting with Speaker Pelosi about the investigation, a possible cover-up, and all these things then he's saying that he's not going to be moving forward with any accomplishments that he could actually run on. It's a disservice to the American people.

KING: He says you can't do both. And again, I covered the White House during the -- when the president was actually impeached, the Clinton administration. They did do that was not pretty by any means, it was not pretty but they did do things. To your point about re- litigating, the president also said, again, that he won easily. That all of this was the result of people -- his critics, people who didn't want him to have power after an election he won easily. He lost the popular vote by about three million votes, he did win an Electoral College victory without a doubt but it wasn't easy. So there are a number of things in there to fact check but again, the president's focus on this.

Let's go back and investigate the investigators at a time when he stonewalls, impedes, picks your word, any other oversight or investigation of him is an interesting contrast.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And we've seen Attorney General Bill Barr do the bidding of the president on a number of fronts since the Mueller report came out, really came out in favor of the president's position.

[12:50:06] And I think that's the fear from a number of Democrats that Bill Barr will use this opportunity and all this great power that he has now to declassify documents that he will do the bidding of the president once again because the president has already come out with his conclusion. He said there was spying against my campaign. These people wanted to do a coup against me, they wanted to do a takedown of the president and now Bill Barr can search through all of the intelligence documents to see if he can cherry pick information to back up the president's conclusion. We've already seen Bill Barr sort of backed up the president's claim that they were spying and that, you know, there were something improper about the origins of these investigations. Now he had the ability to go through and see if there any documents that back that up even if the full slate of documents paints a much more nuanced picture.

KING: And important to note, before we hear from Bill Barr, we expect to hear from the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz who's doing his own investigation looking at some -- not all but some of the issues that the origin of things. We will see how that one plays out as well. Mr. Horowitz is known as more of a fair broker in town, we'll see how that one plays out.

You mentioned the people involved in the investigations, there's some breaking news about one of the leading Democrats involved in the oversight investigation of the president. The Democratic House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler appearing to faint at a press conference. This just a short time ago.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): And I think that the congressman is right about that fact. Do you want some? Yes, I got some. Jerry? Take a drink. You look a little dehydrated, brother. You seem a little dehydrated. You OK? You want to take a drink? How do you feel, man? You feel OK?


DE BLASIO: You all right? Here. Do you want to drink some of this? I'll give you some.


KING: That's the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio trying to help Chairman Nadler there apparently fainting or at least being unable to speak. They got him some water. The mayor saying he believed he was dehydrated.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins us now live up on Capitol Hill. She's been reporting trying to find out what happened here. Sunlen, what do we know?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, his office tells me that he is OK, but certainly this is a concerning moment, a very scary moment for the 71-year-old congressman, and you can tell the speed at which people responded in the middle of that event with Bill de Blasio today. Now his office tells me that he never fainted, that he is responsive and he is right now receiving a check-up. And they don't know exactly what happened, exactly what the problem was, but an aide tells me in Nadler's office that they believe he was just dehydrated and the commenting that it was very warm in that room with many people in the audience. And you saw certainly Bill de Blasio there really prompt in noticing in the middle of the event he looked a little faint potentially, needed some water prompting him to get his electrolytes.

Of course, we have seen a lot of Jerry Nadler in recent days, a very familiar face up here on Capitol Hill and on the TV screens. He is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee really leading the charge on so many of the investigations into the Trump administration. Certainly going at a breakneck pace.


KING: Sunlen Serfaty, appreciate the live reporting. We certainly wish the chairman well and we'll keep an eye on that story in the hours ahead here.

Let's come back into the room. And again, we're heading into a holiday weekend capping what has been a remarkable week here in Washington. This public back and forth between the president and the speaker. She questions his well-being, she says he needs an intervention. He says he's a very stable genius, thank you very much, and re-tweets a doctored video of her saying he didn't know anything about that as he leaves for this trip to Japan.

Again, I've been here for a long time. I don't really -- I've covered presidents actually being impeached and I don't remember a week quite like this.

ZANONA: Right. It feels like we're at a new low in the relationship between Pelosi and the president. She's always gotten under his skin but we have seen the sort of turning point this week. He even debuted a nickname for her calling her crazy Nancy Pelosi, although he seems to walk it back a little bit saying maybe I shouldn't use that one.

But I just think it reflects the fact that he is intimidated and threatened by the speaker. She's a strong female figure, and unlike some of the other females in his orbit, whether it's Kellyanne Conway or Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Hope Hicks. She is someone that is not working for him, she is working against him and I don't think he knows how to handle her.

KING: And so there's that personal drama and then there's the result of that personal drama which is that it's a town that' is just dysfunctional at the movement. They couldn't get a disaster aid bill through the House today. There's a question about whether they can get the next spending bill done. The president's U.S./Mexico/Canada trade agreement, he needs Nancy Pelosi's help, she wanted to be with him on it. I think that's in high doubt this week and I could add to the less.

BENDER: Yes, definitely. I mean, Lisa brought the point here by still re-litigating 2016, and that's at a time when he has a 2016 campaign promise, you mentioned the trade deal, sitting there ready to go, and he spent the last two days, you know, carpet bombing his relationship with Nancy Pelosi. [12:55:08] I mean, even with these farmers who this sort of thing is intended for. He had good news yesterday. He had $16 billion in relief granted -- that was for farmers who are struggling from his trade conflict with China, but this was a good moment for him. He had a very happy room of farmers, you know, AG secretary in there and it turned into, you know, a -- almost a police lineup of his staff giving him affirmation of his discipline and calmness.

KING: It's a remarkable strange one, to say the least. Thanks for -- you guys, thanks for dealing with the rock and roll of the hour just passed. And thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you here Sunday morning. Dana Bash is in for Brianna Keilar, she starts after a quick break. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend and spend a few minutes remembering what it's about.