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Trump Falsely Claims "No Obstruction" after Mueller Declines to Clear Him of Interfering with Russia Probe; Trump Falsely Claim Mueller Conflicted; Trump Falsely Claims Russia Did Not Help Him Get Elected Despite Findings of Russia Probe; Trump Falsely Claims He Can't Be Impeached; Trump Falsely Claims Trade War Costing Americans "Very Little" & Companies Are Fleeing China; Report: White House Wanted "USS McCain" Out of Trump's Sight. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 30, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Waters in both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are expected to crest. That means reach their highest level over the next one to two weeks.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Thinking of everyone there. We will stay on that story.

Thank you for joining us. We'll see back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

So, the president spoke and said a lot. And in doing so, he denied reality. And I don't say this flippantly. He lied. He also confirmed a report that depicts him as so insecure he can't even stand to see the name of someone that he doesn't like.

So this is what we're going to do today. Something a little different. We'll play through some of his 17 minutes and 30 seconds talking to reporters and we're going to fact-check it.

Here's why. Yes, it's nothing new that the president didn't tell the truth, and we have all seen fact-check after fact-check of his claims. But it is still not normal. And it is still deserving to be called out.

So let's get started. Out of the gate, the president this morning was asked about Bob Mueller's statement yesterday and he attacked the special counsel and is still claiming he has been exonerated.


DONALD TRUMP, PRSEIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think it was the same as the report. It wasn't much changed. It was, to me, the same as the report. And there's no obstruction. You see what we're saying. There's no obstruction, no collusion, no nothing. This is nothing but a witch hunt. A witch hunt by the media and the Democrats, they're partners. And it keeps going.

I thought it was finished when the report was released. But it goes on. And to me, it was the same, frankly, as the report, and he said basically it was the same as the report.


BOLDUAN: OK. So joining me now, Elie Honig, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, and CNN senior political analyst, Jon Avlon, and senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Guys, thank you so much for being here.

Let us start with this one, what we heard, Elie. No obstruction, no obstruction, there's nothing. This is not what Bob Mueller said yesterday. This is not what is said in the report. Explain.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is not even close. Maybe the biggest and easiest one to shoot down. No obstruction. Bob Mueller spent the entirety of Volume II laying out what I think is a very compelling, almost overwhelming case of obstruction of justice. It is certainly enough to charge someone who doesn't happen to be the sitting president of the United States with multiple felony counts of obstruction of justice. So this is just wishful thinking.

I think one of the main lessons that came out of hearing Mueller yesterday is the main thing that bailed the president out from an obstruction of justice charge is his status as sitting president.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, he's still calling it a witch hunt, Evan, so we have the FBI director who says it's not a witch hunt, the deputy director who says it's not a witch hunt. It's still not going to be a witch hunt no matter how many times he says it.

JON AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not a witch hunt. It's the opposite. What we heard yesterday from Bob Mueller re-enforced the idea because of his fidelity to the rule of law and his concern even about fairness, he didn't indict the president. He was bound by the Justice Department guidelines. That's the opposite of a witch hunt. It's the rule of law that benefits the president that wouldn't benefit anybody else.

BOLDUAN: So, Evan, then President Trump went back to another familiar refrain, questioning Mueller's motives, because the president says he has conflicts. Let me play this.


TRUMP: I think he's totally conflicted because, as you know, he wanted to be the FBI director and I said no. As you know, I had a business dispute with him. After he left the FBI, we had a business dispute.

I think he's a total conflicted person. I think Mueller is a true Never Trumper. He's somebody that dislikes Donald Trump. He's somebody that didn't get a job that he requested, that he wanted very badly, and then he was appointed.

And despite that, and despite $40 million, 18 Trump haters, including people who worked for Hillary Clinton and some of the worst human beings on earth, they got nothing. It's pretty amazing.


BOLDUAN: That is what he said, pretty amazing. Because, Evan, the conflict, as the president points to, it's addressed in the Mueller report. You have done reporting on it. What does it say and what do you know?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the conflict he's referring to is a dispute that happened years and years ago. Bob Mueller had joined his golf club in Virginia and had asked for a refund, then there was a dispute over that.

Years later, the president and his team asked Mueller to come interview for the FBI director job after he had fired James Comey. And it was after that that Rod Rosenstein -- the following day, Rod Rosenstein called up Bob Mueller and asked him to instead become the special counsel.

[11:05:01] So a lot of things that the president says just don't add up. There's no evidence to indicate there's a conflict at all. Again, the dispute is addressed, as you mentioned, in the Mueller report. And there's really nothing there.

It's not clear why the president is hanging on to something so small, so petty, except for the fact that he believes it undermines the investigation.

BOLDUAN: And what about the -- it's normally 18 angry Democrats, now it's 18 angry Trump haters.

PEREZ: Right. As you know, Kate, that Bob Mueller himself is a Republican, lifelong Republican. Again, the party affiliation of these prosecutors or the party they had voted for or donated to is not really relevant. There's plenty of times where you have Republicans, who are members of a prosecutorial team, who will prosecute Republicans, and the same way with Democrats. It's an irrelevant thing.

BOLDUAN: Why does he seem particularly angry about this today? If, as the president said, it's all the same as he saw in the report.

AVLON: Yes. As the president tried to say, it's a total exoneration. Normally, someone wouldn't be that angry. The fact is the president was specifically not exonerated.

I think the president seeing Bob Mueller clarify that Bill Barr misled the American people, that there's a lot that's damning in the report, particularly with Russia's demonstrated attempt to influence the election on Donald Trump's behalf, that gets under his skin. He can spin out of the facts. Yet, there's an impulse to lie about things big and small.

On the first page alone, I have more than a dozen demonstrable lies. Little things, like he asked for the FBI director's ship and was turned down. Not true. Steve Bannon said that in his testimony to Congress.



AVLON: Worst people on earth. That's a tough to gauge on any objective sense, but I'll say his pal, Kim Jong-Un, would be much more likely to be on the list of worst people on earth than the lifelong prosecutors on the Justice Department.

BOLDUAN: It's all subjective, Jon. It's all subjective. Not at all actually.

Let's continue with the fact-check. One issue that has always been difficult for the president is whether Russia helped him get elected. He talked about it again today.


TRUMP: No, Russia did not help me get elected. You know who got me elected? You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn't help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think helped the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mueller reports they tried to help you and hurt Hillary Clinton. Was Mueller wrong about that?

TRUMP: I believe that Russia would rather have Hillary Clinton as president of the United States than Donald Trump.

The reason is nobody has been tougher on Russia than me. Whether it's our energy policy, which was not heard. Whether it's the pipeline, as you know, in Europe going all over the place that I have been bitterly complaining about. Whether it's Ukraine. Whether it's a whole host of things, there's nobody ever been more tough or difficult to Russia than Donald Trump.

I have to tell you this, I put sanctions on Russia at a level that nobody has seen before.


BOLDUAN: Jon, this whole issue, whether how Russia helped him get elected, wanted him to get elected. That is also addressed in the Mueller report. It's a large part of Volume I of the Mueller report and what Russia was doing.


BOLDUAN: And it's also even contradicted what the president said there, is contradicted by the president in a tweet this morning. AVLON: Yes, this morning, he committed a classic Washington gaffe,

which is unintentionally telling the truth. Saying that Russia helped him win the election. Look, we know that's true not only from the Mueller report, not only from the Intelligence Community assessment, not only reinforced by members of his own Justice Department --


BOLDUAN: Let us all be clear on our facts.

AVLON: Oh, yes.


BOLDUAN: Not that Russia helped him. It's that, I had nothing to do with Russia helping to get me elected, Jon.

AVLON: Classic Washington gaffe. I had nothing to do with Russia helping me getting elected. That's a pretty clear way of saying it, Russia did try to help him get elected. The report says there was no coordination or collusion they could confirm on the part of the president.

But the president today doubling, triple down on this outright falsehood, in fact, saying, if anything, Russia was trying to get Hillary Clinton elected, that's nonsense words. We heard from Vladimir Putin's own mouth he wanted Donald Trump to be elected. The report makes it very clear, it's not up for debate. But he's trying to dupe his base and say the exact opposite of what is true. Try to confuse folks.

HONIG: The key phrase from the Mueller report is that the Trump campaign expected to benefit electorally from the Russian hacking effort. And by the way, that phrase Bill Barr left off, cut out, cut off a sentence he put in his four-page letter.

BOLDUAN: This is just the beginning, everyone.

Jon, Evan, Elie, thank you so much.

Coming up, there's a lot more to go through from what the president said this morning. President Trump claiming this morning he cannot be impeached.

[11:10:02] Plus, the president also addresses reports that officials tried to block a U.S. warship from the president's view because it bears the name of the late Senator John McCain.

We'll be right back.


[11:15:00] BOLDUAN: Here we go. President Trump fact-check part two. Because even though the president only spoke for 17 minutes and 30 seconds to be exact this morning, it may take all day for the truth to catch up. Again, we're dedicating this hour to fact-checking the president because, what he did this morning may not be new for him, but it still should be called out.

Listen to what the president said about the possibility of impeachment today.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think they're going to impeach you?

TRUMP: I don't see how they can. Because they're -- although I can't imagine the courts allowing it. I have never gotten into it. I never thought that would be possible to use that word. To me, it's a dirty word, the word "impeach." A dirty, filthy, disgusting word. And it had nothing to do with me. So I don't think so because there was no crime.

You know, it's high crimes and, not "with" or "or." It's high crimes and misdemeanors. There was no high crime and there was no misdemeanor. So how do you impeach based on that?


BOLDUAN: All right. CNN's Phil Mattingly is joining me from Capitol Hill for this one.

Phil, he may be right on this, at least part of this. Where do things stand on the move toward impeachment where he says, I don't see how, I don't see how I could be impeached?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the reason why he might be right on this is more about the actual reason why he doesn't -- why it wouldn't be possible at this point in time. That's more about the political math and the actual member math here on Capitol Hill than it is him citing the courts, which have no role, I think, technically in whether or not the House passes articles of impeachment in the Senate and convicts him.

When you look at the dynamics, were the House to move forward, a committee would have to approve it, the full House would have to pass it, and there would be a trial in the Senate, and they would neat 67 votes to convict the president.

Right now, Republicans control the chamber, 53 Republicans, 47 Democrats. Democrats, in order to convict the president, would need to convince 20, at a minimum, Republicans to come along with them in supporting that. At this moment, there are zero Senate Republicans who support moving forward on impeachment. That's why it doesn't seem like something that can go to fruition.

The bigger question is, will the House start to move forward on things. This is a reality we have picked up in the last 24 hours or so. There's a groundswell of a small number of House Democrats who are very vocal, prominent. They serve in the House Judiciary Committee who believe it's time to move forward on an impeachment inquiry.

However, I say a small number because that's about 40 House Democrats. That means about 20 percent of the caucus is there now. Most of those Democrats come from safe districts. Most of those Democrats aren't politically liable at this point in time for taking that position. They're reflecting their constituents. They believe, in some cases, it's a moral case as well.

But the speaker, who pointed out yesterday that she knew the very number of Democrats that had that position, and made clear that is not the majority of the caucus, nowhere near the majority of the caucus, therefore, she's sticking to the current path, and that not opening an impeachment inquiry at the moment, continue the investigations they've had ongoing, and if the evidence shows that's the path to go, nothing is off the table.

Two things in what the president said. One, when you look at the dynamics, particularly in the Senate, it doesn't look like impeachment would occur given Republicans control the chamber.

And, two, at least, at the moment, And, Democrats are not going down that path, according to the speaker of the House.

Kate, as you know better than anybody, Democrats can say whatever they want on TV, on social media, and otherwise. If the speaker is not there, then they are not going there either.

So that is kind of where things stand on the dynamic at the moment. We'll obviously have to wait and see. A lot of steps to come and Democrats have made clear nothing is off the table.

But for the moment, the strategy in the Democrat-controlled House is to continue on their current path, according not just to the speaker of the House but also the House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who would oversee any impeachment inquiry process -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely.

Great to see you, Phil.

If you had any question Nancy Pelosi is not counting votes on that, Phil just corrected that.

Thank you so much, Phil.

On Phil's point -- I want to bring back in Elie Honig on this.

Elie, I want you to put a fine point on this. The president also said in speaking about this that he didn't see how he could be impeached because he didn't think the courts would allow it. Courts have nothing to do with impeachment.

HONIG: Completely nonsensical. The Supreme Court has absolutely nothing to do with impeachment. The only slight connection, almost a piece of trivia, is if there's a trial in the Senate, it's presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. But that's more of a ceremonial thing than anything else.

There's no way if Donald Trump gets impeached he can appeal to the Supreme Court, ask the Supreme Court to stop it or block it. But the president has talked about the Supreme Court in this way before. He seems to think it's this all-purpose get-out-of-jail or get-out-of- trouble-free card, and it is simply not.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely not.

Elie will be back with me in a little bit.

The president also took on the trade war with China. This morning, once again, trying to say Americans aren't paying the price for the trade war.

Here's another sound bite from the president speaking with reporters this morning.


[11:20:07] TRUMP: I think we're doing very well with China.

I want to shake your hand. Come here. You treated me fairly. Thank you. Thank you. Wait, wait.

I want to ask a real reporter's question. We're going to answer a real reporter's question. OK.

China would love to make a deal with us. We had a deal, and they broke the deal. I think if they had it to do again, they wouldn't have done what they did. We're taking in billions of dollars in tariffs. China is subsidizing products, so the United States taxpayer is paying for very little of it. If you look at inflation and if you look at pricing, it's gone up very little.

The tariffs are having a devastating effect on China. People are fleeing the country with their companies. These companies are leaving for Vietnam, other parts of Asia, and they're even coming to the United States because then there's no tariffs.

I think we're doing very well with China. We'll see what happens. But I can tell you China very much wants to make a deal because the companies are leaving China to avoid the tariffs. China is becoming a very weakened nation. Just as Iran has become a very weakened nation. And Iran wants to make a deal also.


BOLDUAN: OK. Again, that was another one from President Trump just this morning.

CNN's Cristina Alesci is with me on this one.

Is he right?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS REPORTER: The fact he's saying we're doing very well with China on the morning that China called us economic terrorists is laughable.

But he's trying to spin a story that the tariffs are great for the U.S. and absolutely horrible for China. And that's just not right.

First off, let me dispel this notion, yet again, that U.S. companies and consumers pay for the tariffs. China is not subsidizing that.

We see that in various economic studies that have come out. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimated the average family in America will pay $831 more a year because of these tariffs in both direct and indirect costs.

Not to mention the fact that the U.S. taxpayer will now have to subsidize U.S. farmers --


ALESCI: -- for aid to the tune of $16 billion. That was the latest round. We also did another round earlier for $12 billion.

So we're talking a lot of money coming out of the U.S. companies and consumers' pockets to fund this war with China.

BOLDUAN: There's no bank the president can just dip into to get some Chinse money to pay for this stuff.

But what about the other thing, people are fleeing China with their companies?

ALESCI: This is another thing that's, you know, completely confusing. It's true that U.S. companies are now trying to import from other places, so we're importing more from Vietnam. That doesn't mean that Chinese companies are fleeing China to do so.

And by the way, that could actually backfire on us because, right now, we are bringing in, you know, when he says we're bringing in billions, we're bringing in more from U.S. importers into the Treasury coffers. But if U.S. companies are moving their supply chains, that means they're not paying the tariffs. That money isn't coming into the Treasury.

It could ironically backfire that U.S. companies are going elsewhere, and it might undermine his claim that we're taking in billions in tariffs.

BOLDUAN: On the most basic level, we're still in the midst of the trade war. American taxpayers are still paying for it. That's the way it is until it changes.

ALESCI: You got it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Cristina. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

All right, coming up for us, President Trump launches a new attack on Senator John McCain amid reports Trump officials tried to keep a warship named for McCain out of Trump's sight. The fact-check this hour rolls on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:28:41] BOLDUAN: The president today not only attacked Robert Mueller, the Russia investigation, the Russia investigation report, and so on and so forth, he also spent time attacking the late Senator John McCain, confirming reports and two reporters that the White House asked the Navy to block or obscure the Navy destroyer named for McCain and his family when Trump was visiting troops in Japan.

Let me play that moment for you.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think it's fair to the sailors of the "John McCain" that they were panned from hearing the speech?

TRUMP: I don't know what happened. I wasn't involved. I would not have done that.

I was very angry with John McCain because he killed health care. I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way, shape, or form. I think John McCain had a lot to getting President Bush, a lot to do with it, to go into the Middle East, which was a catastrophe.

To me, John McCain, I wasn't a fan. But I would never do a thing like that.

Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn't like him. OK. And they were well meaning, I will say. I didn't know anything about it. I would never have done that.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now for this one, Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne, and retired Marine Corps colonel and former Pentagon spokesman, David Lapan.

Ryan, first to you.

What is the Pentagon actually saying about this?

[11:30:04] RYANE BROWN, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, Kate, the Pentagon is refusing to say on the record whether or not the Navy was directed to either hide or obstruct the view of the "John S. McCain."