Return to Transcripts main page


Trump: The Case Is Closed; More Democratic Lawmakers Than Ever Before Calling For An Impeachment Inquiry Of Trump; Trump: I Couldn't Care Less About The Boat. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 30, 2019 - 14:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN on this Thursday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. Quote, "The case is closed," President Trump's own words, regarding the Mueller report. He is telling the country move on. But does this sound like a man who has moved on?


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: 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. He is 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 that work for Hillary Clinton, and some of the worst human beings on earth -- they got nothing. It's pretty amazing.


BALDWIN: This morning, the President of the United States stood on White House grounds, and went on a rant, telling a flurry of lies. And I know, you've heard this before Trump lies. If you're numb to that you shouldn't be, and today seemed different. Let me tell you why.

The President not only went off on Robert Mueller referring to him, as you just heard, as if forever never Trumper, and telling a lie about Mueller and Trump and the FBI, and we'll in fact check that in just a moment. He also went off on China and the late Senator John McCain, again.

And then he walks back and tweet, from this morning, where he basically acknowledged, for the first time that Russia helped get him elected. A tweet he has since deleted, here's the walk back.


TRUMP: No, Russia did not help me get elected, you know, who got me elected? Do you know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn't help me at all.


BALDWIN: "I got me elected," he says -- "I." Well you and the 62,984,825 Americans who voted for you and the 306 electoral votes, but I digress. In true reality TV form, he then teased a major statement today on the U.S. - Mexico border. We are standing by for that.

Also, standing by for us this afternoon over at the White House is CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Kaitlan, let's jog back to that that Trump claim that Mueller wanted to be his FBI Director, and that is simply not true. And Trump's former campaign chairman is the one who told Mueller the truth. What did he say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a claim that President has made for some time, that Robert Mueller was conflicted, and therefore he should have never served as the Special Counsel even though, Brooke, we've seen the President flip flop on whether or not Robert Mueller acted honorably.

Something that President once said yes, that he did. And now the President says no, he did not. Now as far as these conflict claims, the President is making, they stem from several things. One, over a dispute over fees from a Trump owned golf course. Two, over the fact that Robert Mueller came in and interviewed to be the FBI Director, and three, because this law firm that he used to work for represented some of the people involved in this investigation.

But if you read the Mueller report, Brooke, it lays it out pretty clearly, even from the words of Steve Bannon. That he said, he did not agree that Robert Mueller was conflicted for any of those reasons and he told the President as much, including the claim about the golf fees that he said that was petty and ridiculous.

Now, as far as the FBI Director, this actually really shows you about that interview that the President said Robert Mueller had, where actually, Steve Bannon said that Robert Mueller was brought in to give a perspective on the institution of the FBI. That's in the Mueller report.

He also said that, in Bannon's words, Mueller did not come in looking for the job. And Bannon also told the President that the law firm position did not amount to a conflict in the legal community.

Now, of course, Brooke, we should add that Justice Department ethics lawyers also reviewed whether or not Robert Mueller was conflicted and whether he could serve on the job and they cleared him of any potential conflicts of interest. So this claim that the President made this morning, one day after Robert Mueller refused to publicly exonerate him is just simply not true.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much. Jamie Gangel, is CNN's special correspondent and CNN contributor Michael D'Antonio was a Trump biographer who wrote the book, "The Truth About Trump." So, welcome to both of you.

And Jamie Gangel, we have seen Presidential rants many times over, but this seemed, as I pointed out, off the top different. And quote, General John Kelly, "crazy town."

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And let's remember, John Kelly was his Chief of Staff, so let's take him at his word. I think we have to say every day this is not normal. And even by Donald Trump's standards, today was bizarre. Not too long ago, he was calling Robert Mueller, as Kaitlan said, honorable.


[14:05:04] GANGEL: But today, what we saw -- I mean, it was 18 minutes and it's worth going back online and watching it again for those who haven't seen it. But I think what we're seeing is -- it comes down to a key phrase. He said, "I thought this was finished." He thought it was over when the report came out, and it's not. Last week, Nancy Pelosi got under his skin. This week, Robert Mueller got under his skin.

BALDWIN: We'll get back into the anger that was on display today. But Michael, just to you, as a man who -- you know the man, you wrote a book about the man. This morning there, what was that?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Boy, I think this was a case of the President being confronted by a reality that is impossible for him to accept. And so, he reverted to his fantasy world. Then his fantasy world, he can say whatever he wants to say, and accuse Mueller of things that aren't true, and distribute lies that have been disproven over and over and over again.

And, I believe that we're going to accept them. And I think, what you said at the start of the program, about how we shouldn't expect anything different, but we also shouldn't let our guard down and become exhausted by this is absolutely essential, because we're in the real world, and he's the one occupying unreality.

BALDWIN: Yes. You used the phrase fantasy world. Jamie, to you, I think part of President Trump's -- do I say genius, is the fact that he is able to come out and say something over and over and over and over. He did it when he was running for President. He does it as President and it sort of sticks.

GANGEL: It is his genius. It is branding. It goes back to his days as a salesman.


GANGEL: And let's just say that, as reporters, it's very hard to cover him, when he does this. We fact check him over and over and over again. But we usually, in the normal world, don't say someone is a liar.

BALDWIN: We don't.

GANGEL: Because that says intent. We say a mistake was made ...

BALDWIN: Falsehood. GANGEL: ... that's not correct, falsehood. So I think it is

critical to go through each time and do fact checks. The other thing is, I live in the State of Florida, which voted for Donald Trump. And I was just there and I was talking to a lot of people, all different walks of life, they say they're going to vote for him again. They do not care. They acknowledge that he's not telling the truth.

Some people are going to vote for him again, because it's transactional. They like what he did on taxes. They like what he's doing on immigration. Some people just said to me, "I think he's entertaining." But this is not good for democracy.

BALDWIN: No, it's not.

GANGEL: Right?

BALDWIN: No, it's not. Let me just answer your rhetorical question. And Michael, you know, to the point about his anger, right, I wonder if part of it -- has to be right, that Speaker Pelosi -- the talk of impeachment, and if Speaker Pelosi is saying that Trump is goading Democrats, is daring Democrats into impeaching him, that he wants it, but let me just play what he said.


TRUMP: I never thought that would even be possible to be using that word. To me, it's a dirty word, the word impeach. It's 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 -- it's high crimes and misdemeanors. There was no high crime and there was no misdemeanor. So how do you impeach based on that?


BALDWIN: And again, just reminding everyone, if he thinks the word impeachment is the dirty, filthy, disgusting word then we know where he grabs women, according to the "Access Hollywood" tape. And we know what he thinks of certain African countries, I don't need to curse on this show. We all know what he said and yet this is the bad word.

That said, Michael, does this sound like someone who wants to be impeached because he looks mighty angry and sounds mighty defensive?

D'ANTONIO: No, I don't think he wants to be impeached at all. And this is a game of chicken that he's playing with the Congress. He's daring them and I don't think he really wants to go through this trial. You know, think about him defending himself on the Senate floor, with the prosecutors from the House, presenting their case, point by point. This would be sheer misery for him, and yet, it may be the duty of the House to pursue it.

To go back to his comment about dirty, filthy, disgusting. This is where politics and marketing come together. In the 90s, Newt Gingrich promoted the idea of using hot words to associate your opponent with things that were upsetting to voters. [14:10:02] D'ANTONIO: So, he is attaching these words dirty, filthy,

disgusting, to the concept of impeachment as a marketing ploy.

BALDWIN: Do you think it's going to work for him?

D'ANTONIO: You know, it's selling -- you know it works with his base. And I think it will cause some people to pause as they reflect the idea of impeachment. But it's not a good long-term strategy. People can see past the marketing and grasp what's going on, I think.

BALDWIN: Michael D'Antonio and Jamie Gangel, thank you both very much.

One day after Robert Mueller broke his silence on the Russia investigation, more Democrats are taking to heart these words from the Special Counsel, former Special Counsel now, saying his work investigating whether the President obstructing justice can only go so far.


ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE'S SPECIAL COUNSEL: The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.


BALDWIN: And now we are seeing more Democratic lawmakers than ever before calling for the impeachment or an impeachment inquiry of Trump, but is it enough? CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza, is with me now. Yes -- give me the latest tally on who's in and who's out.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Okay. Well, it's important because it is changing. Right before the show we had 40, now we have 41. So we have 41 House Democrats saying that they either think Donald Trump should be impeached, thinking impeachment inquiry should be open. There's a little bit of a spectrum here.

But let's just say, are using the "I" word. Okay. Let's say that, Brooke. It does notably include the Democratic Chairman, the House Budget Financial Services and Rules Committee. It doesn't notably include Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, any member of her top leadership team or the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler, who obviously would run that sort of impeachment inquiry.

One thing just, by way of context, 41 House Democrats -- remember they hold 235 seats. So just by way of where we are out of the whole. Let's go to the next one. Because this is an issue on the 2020 campaign trail. We've seen more candidates come forward.

Now, you say, "Wow, that's a lot of candidates." And it is, but remember, 23 people are running for President. So again, context matters. But Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, both major, major figures. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have not called for it. Now, what would the logistics look like, numbers wise, if an

impeachment inquiry would be open? Remember, it's a two-step process -- House then Senate. So to impeach Donald Trump, you need a majority. That means they could lose Democrats 235, they could lose up to 17 seats, 17 people who are Democrats could vote against him and Donald Trump could still be impeached.

You see, they could lose this number here. They have a pretty healthy majority. Here's the problem. Let's go to the next slide. Here's the problem -- as I said, two-step process. House -- okay. Senate -- they have a problem. You need two thirds in the Senate. Remember, Democrats only have 47 seats, 45 if you don't count Bernie Sanders and Angus King who coaxed with them but that's not important.

You need 20 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for impeachment -- short of a huge event that I don't see on the horizon, right? We thought the Mueller report might be it. Maybe Mueller's testimony, if it happens. I don't see that happening. And that's why Nancy Pelosi is politically speaking on safe ground at this point, Brooke.

Only 41 out of 235 saying, "Yes, I think he should be impeached." And the fact that it's just not going to go anywhere in the Senate, unless something big changes.

BALDWIN: Sure, I know the math matters, but I think it's also noteworthy that when we're listening to Speaker Pelosi responding to all of this yesterday. You know, she had that number in her head at the time, 38, right?


BALDWIN: She's counting. She is counting.

CILLIZZA: Well, and remember, Brooke. The key here is not necessarily this Senate number. The key is that first slide we showed 41 out of 235, let's say that number gets up to 140 out of 235. Then it becomes a lot more politically dicey for Nancy Pelosi to keep saying no impeachment.

BALDWIN: Yes. Chris Cillizza, thank you very much for running through all of that for us.

Coming up here on CNN, yet another chapter in the President's grudge against the late Senator John McCain. New reporting about how the White House tried to keep a war ship out of Trump's eye view because it had Senator McCain's name on it. And now, his daughter Meghan is responding to this new dig against her late dad.

And beating the odds, "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek shares mind boggling news about his battle with pancreatic cancer. And actor Ashton Kutcher taking the stand, testifying in a Hollywood Ripper serial killer trial, hear what he said. You're watching CNN and I'm from Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:19:32] BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke

Baldwin. The President insulted him during his battle with brain cancer, mocked him months after his death, and now President Trump is apparently so bothered by the late Senator John McCain that the White House military office communicated with lower level Navy officials about keeping the USS John McCain out of sight during the President's trip to Japan.

Two Navy officials confirmed that to CNN. E-mails were exchanged about moving or obscuring the warship but a senior Navy official tells CNN, "The plan was scrubbed once leadership actually caught wind of this."

[14:20:06] BALDWIN: Speaking to reporters today, before leaving the White House, Trump denied knowing about the plan.


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 healthcare. Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn't like him, okay, and they were well meaning.

They thought they were doing me a favor because they know I am not a fan of John McCain. But certainly I couldn't care less whether or not there's a boat named after his father.


BALDWIN: Meghan McCain says this is just another example of how the President is trying to tarnish her father's legacy.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, DAUGHTER OF JOHN MCCAIN: The President's actions have consequences and when you repeatedly are attacking my father and war heroes, it creates a culture in the military, where people are clearly fearful to show, you know, my father's name in one way or another.

It's impossible to go through the grief process when my father has been dead 10 months. It's constantly in the news cycle, because the President is so obsessed with the fact that he's never going to be a great man like he was.


BALDWIN: Retired Navy Commander Kirk Lippold is with me now. He commanded USS Cole and also with me, CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro.

Commander, I just want to begin with you because, just for context for everyone watching, this ship was originally named after Senator McCain's father and grandfather and then the Senator was added as a namesake just last year, and I can't help but think of these sailors. You know, working really hard to serve this country, to serve on this ship and then being told to hide the name of a war hero who is buried in Annapolis at the Naval Academy. What message does that send?

KIRK LIPPOLD, RETIRED NAVY COMMANDER: Well, I think when you look at it, obviously, the Director of the White House military office, I mean, a cornerstone of our democracy is civilian control of the military but civilian control does not mean political abuse. And when you've got a political appointee, asking for something like this, it is wholly unacceptable. And I'm glad that the Navy leadership finally saw fit to push back and say, "No, we are not going to do that."

That ship has operational commitments, doing repairs, and other maintenance work in port. And we're not going to interrupt the schedule of the sailors or otherwise to move it at taxpayer expense, just because some guy thinks that that will make President Trump happy.

BALDWIN: And then one more thing for you before I move on, I was taking notes as I was listening to the President this morning. And towards the end when he was answering questions. He said, "I couldn't care less about the boat," -- the boat. Is that insulting to you?

LIPPOLD: No, it's not insulting. I think a lot of people that I've talked to over the years often mistake it they call our ships boats. But you know, that's a matter of education. When you look at it, the Navy have ships, submarines and aircraft. We do have small boats but that is a ship and it is a warship and a fine one at that.

BALDWIN: Ana Navarro, the President says, whoever wanted the ship out of sight was quote unquote, "well meaning." Why can't he seem to quit Senator McCain?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because he's insecure, because he will never amount to anything in comparison to John McCain. Donald Trump's never going to get a ship named for him. At best, he can ask for a hot air balloon that would be much more appropriate.

Listen, there is nothing, nothing Donald Trump can do to erase John McCain from American history and from world history. Just the last few weeks, Ukraine named the street after him. Just this week, in Lithuania, a great hall is being named for him. You will not erase John McCain from history no matter what you do, Donald Trump.

But you know, as you were talking about -- you were thinking about the men and women serving on the USS John McCain. You know who I was thinking of? John McCain IV, who's actually still serving in the U.S. Navy right now. Just returned from two years in Afghanistan, Jack McCain, this part of the service, is part of this Navy. And I was thinking with great sorrow and worry about how much Donald Trump has done to harm the institutions of the United States -- the Presidency, the military.

The fact that he has now surrounded himself by sycophants who serve not the country, not the Constitution, but serve the whim of Donald Trump, did this because they thought it would please him and obviously says, well meaning.

And you know, it tells you what the lack of adults in the room as we used to call them, like Jim Mattis, or John Kelly, who we could have disagreed on a bunch of things. But there is no way that something like this would have happened under their watch, whereas now, it happens because he has surrounded himself by nothing but yes-men and yes-women who do everything they can in order to hold on to their jobs, even when it means compromising the most basic human decency.

BALDWIN: Commander back over to you, you know, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan says that he will investigate these reports. I know you're calling for the naming and the reprimand of the White House military official who floated this idea to begin with.

[14:25:09] BALDWIN: Can you just talk to me about the effect of even having a conversation about moving a Navy ship for reason like this?

LIPPOLD: Well, when you move a Navy ship like this, it disrupts the entire day. I mean, the sailors have to go to sea and anchor detail, they have to make sure the ship is properly manned so that they can move it. Tugs are going to be involved.

It is a larger process than people think it is. You don't just get the ship and move it from one place to another. So clearly, whoever is running the White House military office needs to be better informed. They've got a military deputy, that deputy should have immediately gone through the process. And sometimes when political appointees say things like this, it is the duty of naval officers to look at them and say, "No, sir, we shouldn't do that. Here are the reasons why."

If you direct me to do it, that's fine. But the White House military office does not have any operational or administrative authority over any naval assets whatsoever, except those directly assigned for the movement of the President and the Vice President.

So clearly, in this case, it should have been pushed back much earlier than it was because this is a story that never should have been.

BALDWIN: And to hear you say, you know, your point about "No, sir, we shouldn't have done this." Ana, back over to you and your point. Your word was sycophants, right, that surround this President.

Last question. I mean, do you think at the end of the day, let's take President Trump at his word, that he had no idea somebody was even floating this idea. Does it speak to -- is it fear among those around him, fear that he would lash out if he were to see the USS McCain there in the waters of Tokyo? What's that about?

NAVARRO: Why wouldn't they assume that, when he has been lashing out at John McCain at every stage, whether he was a candidate, whether he was President, whether John McCain is alive, or whether John McCain is dead? He has been lashing out at the man.

And look, I think it's important that we as Americans, not lose sight of just how horrible and how not normal, and how pathetic, and disgusting, and small this is, and it keeps happening. And so, we've got to resist the urge of shrugging your shoulders and saying, "Oh, that's just Trump being Trump." That's just people trying to appease --

BALDWIN: No, we cannot shrug our shoulders.

NAVARRO: No, we could not get used to the fact that we have a petty little man as President, and he has affected the institutions of the United States to this level, where people will cater to his every whim, even when it means putting a tarp over the names of heroes.

BALDWIN: Appreciate the conversation.

NAVARRO: I wish we could put a tarp over him.

BALDWIN: Ana Navarro, with the zing in the end, thank you very much. And Commander Lippold, thank you as always, of course, for your service and just for coming on and your voice, appreciate both of you.

LIPPOLD: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Just in, to us here at CNN, Attorney General Bill Barr responding to Robert Mueller's statement and the criticism of Barr's handling of Mueller's findings. Hear what Barr, says specifically about obstruction of justice.

Plus, movie star turned star witness. Actor Ashton Kutcher testifies in the trial of a suspected serial killer dubbed "The Hollywood Ripper." His account what it was like to find one of the murder scenes. You're watching CNN.