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Interview With Delaware Senator Chris Coons; Republican Congressional Candidate Charged With Assaulting Reporter; Trump Slams NATO Leaders; Travel Ban Blocked; ; FBI Not Giving Comey Docs to House Committee, For Now. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 25, 2017 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Next stop, the Supreme Court?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Another major blow to President Trump's immigration ban, a federal appeals court upholding the block on his second travel ban. What happens now?

It's one way to make an impression, scold the very people to their faces, the ones hosting you. And that's not the only drama surrounding President Trump's NATO visit.


GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Yes, we'll talk to you about that later.

BEN JACOBS, "THE GUARDIAN": Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious...

GIANFORTE: OK, speak with Shane, please.

I'm sick and tired of you guys!


TAPPER: That escalated quickly, a candidate for Congress charged with assault after allegedly body-slamming a reporter hours before polls open. Why this might impact tonight's election, but not in the way you think.

Good afternoon. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In Brussels today, President Trump took the opportunity of a NATO summit to publicly berate fellow members for not living up to their defense spending commitments. This is an issue that previous presidents have grappled with in a less public and reproachful way. And it's a well-taken one.

But NATO members were also hoping that the president would additionally underline his support for the principle of Article V of the NATO charter that an attack on one member is an attack on all. To the disappointment of European allies, Mr. Trump did not publicly or explicitly affirm that commitment, which he has suggested in the past he is less than sold on.

The president in the past in public and private has cast the need of NATO allies to spend more on defense in terms of dues owed, as if NATO were a country club. Today, the president did correctly talk about members' commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, but he also alluded to allies who -- quote -- "owe massive amounts of money from past years," which seems to echo his previous misunderstandings that this is all about back dues, an issue that caused a great deal of confusion weeks ago when in private he insisted that Germany pay what it owed in previous years, which really doesn't make a lot of sense.

More pointedly, the scolding from the president came with the newly unveiled 9/11 Memorial behind him. The attacks on the U.S. on 9/11 are, as a matter of history, the only time that NATO's Article V has been invoked.

Meanwhile, in private today, the president found himself on the defensive after another national security leak from his administration angered America's closest ally.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the president and he filed this report.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump facing tough questions tonight over whether the U.S. can be trusted with sensitive intelligence.

At his first summit with world leaders, America's credibility on the line, British officials outraged, blaming the U.S. for leaking operational intelligence of the Manchester bombing to the press. It prompted British authorities to stop sharing information with the U.S. about the terror plot.

Arriving at NATO headquarters in Brussels, British Prime Minister Theresa May made clear the incident was a test of the special relationship with the U.S.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will be making clear to President Trump today that intelligence that is shared between law enforcement agencies must remain secure.

ZELENY: The president didn't take questions from reporters today, but later issued a statement, calling the leaks "deeply troubling." He said the "leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security."

He asked the Justice Department to investigate the leak and offered an apology, saying, "There's no relationship we cherish more than the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom." It was an embarrassing moment for the president's debut on the world stage. Yet he did not address the intelligence leak while speaking at NATO.


ZELENY: As he lashed out against extremists.

TRUMP: All people who cherish life must unite in finding, exposing and removing these killers and extremists and, yes, losers. They are losers.

ZELENY: The president then proceeded to lecture his counterparts about their contributions to the alliance. The awkward tension was clear.

TRUMP: Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.

ZELENY: The president's tongue-lashing hardly out of the blue, given his campaign rhetoric about NATO's mission.

TRUMP: I never studied NATO big, but I said two things. It's obsolete and the United States is paying too much.


ZELENY: But, today, his scolding tone seemed to fall flat with many of his fellow leaders, as he condemned many countries for not paying their full share.

TRUMP: We have to make up for the many years lost; 2 percent is the bare minimum for confronting today's very real and very vicious threats.

ZELENY (on camera): But it was also notable what the president did not say, and that's what is on mind of many leaders here at NATO. Will the United States have the back of its allies, given another potential attack? That's what Article V of the NATO treaty says. An attack against one is an attack of all.

Of course, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack, NATO did have the back of the U.S. The rising fears of Russian aggression and the fight against extremism here so much on the mind of NATO leaders. Will this president have their back as well, Jake?


TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny for us, thank you so much.

And we have breaking news on a big White House priority. An Eastern appeals court just doubled down against the president's travel ban, telling the Trump administration that the ban -- quote -- "drips with religious intolerance" -- unquote -- and violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This new ruling upholds a lower court's decision to indefinitely halt the ban from going into effect and it likely means the Supreme Court could weigh into this battle.

CNN justice reporter Laura Jarrett joins me now.

And, Laura, was this decision a surprise in anyway?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, given the political makeup of the court, this probably isn't a surprise.

But still no doubt today's decision is another significant defeat for the Trump administration in this ongoing legal drama over the president's travel ban, this time, 10 judges on the court finding that the executive order likely violates the Constitution and must remain on hold.

The ruling was lengthy, but pointed, saying the president's power is not absolute and cannot go unchecked. The Trump administration had tried to justify their attempt to ban foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries on national security grounds, but a majority of the judges on the court simply didn't buy it, calling it an executive order that in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance and discrimination.

In large part, Trump's own words doomed any legal justification his lawyers could have offered in this case, as the judges said: "Then candidate Trump's campaign statements reveal that on numerous occasions he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his intent if elected to ban Muslims from the United States."

Now, we haven't heard any reaction from the White House or the Justice Department yet, but the Fourth Circuit isn't the only court weighing in on this travel ban. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a different appeal earlier this month. And we're still waiting for a decision on that, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Laura Jarrett, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee will weigh in on the breaking news, another legal defeat for the Trump administration's travel ban.

Stick around. We will bring you that.



TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead, a federal appeals court upholding the block on President Trump's controversial travel ban from six Muslim-majority countries.

Joining me now to talk about this and much, much more, Democratic Senator Chris Coons of the great state of Delaware. He serves on the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committee.

Thanks so much for being here, Senator.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said today we're likely going to see more terror attacks like the one in England.

As you know, the bomber traveled to both Syria and Libya in the weeks prior to the attack. Those are two of the six countries on the travel ban.

What do you say to a constituent who says, you know what, I don't want people just coming into this country willy-nilly from Libya and Syria? England did that and look what happened there.

COONS: Well, first, I would say to them, we don't let people come in to this country willy-nilly from Libya and Syria. We do good vetting. We have good security services. And we have a good process in place.


TAPPER: But doesn't England think that? Doesn't England think that they have good vetting?

COONS: Unless I'm mistaken, the bomber in Manchester was a U.K. national...

TAPPER: Right.

COONS: ... and was not being admitted as a refugee. I will just remind you that the ban that was put in place by President Trump soon after he became president was against refugees coming from these exclusively majority-Muslim countries.

And the decision today by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is a reminder that the at times outrageous statements by then candidate Donald Trump that he wanted to block Muslims from coming into this country could be ascribed as the motivation behind the ban that he put in place as president.

And that's because this was a ban that prevented only refugees coming from Muslim-majority countries, not from countries based on an assessment of risk.

And I will just remind you, if we had attacks by refugees happening in the United States, there might be more of a basis for this. There hasn't been any recent terrorist attack or terrorist-inspired or terrorist-related attack by anyone admitted in the United States as a refugee.

I think that's partly why the Fourth Circuit didn't see the security justification behind this ban as compelling.

TAPPER: Do you think that we have in the United States right now adequate vetting so that, if somebody were to go abroad, let's say travel to Turkey and then through Turkey get to Syria or some other way get to Libya, get trained, fly back through Turkey -- let's say that the person is a U.S. citizen or green card holder.

Do you think we have adequate vetting in place right now, so as to prevent that person from coming in if he or she had been trained by ISIS?

COONS: Different fact pattern. That's a U.S. citizen, where there's different restrictions on their constitutional rights.

TAPPER: Right.

COONS: I think we can and should strengthen our intelligence-sharing with our allies.

One of the key pieces of news this week has been ways in which our intelligence strength -- our intelligence-sharing with our key allies both in NATO and Western Europe and throughout the world have been put at risk, first by the stories that President Trump may have intentionally or inadvertently shared highly classified information with the foreign minister and ambassador of Russia in the Oval Office, and more recent developments that the British police are going to stop sharing intelligence because there was leaks of intelligence by our intelligence community.

[16:15:24] One of the ways we do that vetting is in reliance upon information gathered by intelligence services in the countries like the countries you mentioned whether it was Turkey or Syria or elsewhere in Western Europe, we have to have strong and vibrant intelligence sharing relationships with our allies in order to keep America and Americans safe.

TAPPER: The Republicans on Capitol Hill are saying about this story pertaining to Manchester not to President Trump talking in the Oval Office with the Russians, the Manchester story, this is evidence what Republicans have been saying for the last year or so. There are too many leaks. They got too out of control.

COONS: I do think we should be concerned about leaks from our intelligence community that are going to potentially put at risk our information sharing with key allies. Yesterday, we had a hearing on the Judiciary Committee where the United Kingdom deputy adviser was in front of me. I asked him about whether or not this incident was in fact going to lead to a fraying of the intelligence relationship between the United States and United Kingdom. And he said he really hoped this would be limited to this episode and that rumors that there were going to stop sharing intelligence with us more broadly were not true.

Obviously, if there are repeated leaks, if there are repeated incidents like this, the U.K., one of our closest most vital allies, may well rethink that.

TAPPER: Let me ask you about the Russian investigation just because sources told CNN a few days ago that Russian intelligence officials were confident they could influence the Trump campaign's positions by working through Michael Flynn, "The New York Times" matched that and added Paul Manafort as somebody that could be influenced potentially, at least Russian intelligence thought so. Have you seen any evidence at all that that actually happened?

COONS: Well, one of the things that's striking in the circumstantial evidence around this case is a significant change in position by the Republican Party. Their platform and how they described our obligations as a nation to support Ukraine and Ukraine's territorial sovereignty and to push back on Russian aggression, particularly in eastern Ukraine and to continue to recognize Crimea as part of Ukraine, my understanding is that position changed in the Republican Party platform and that leaders in the Trump campaign had a role in that.

So, you've got Russian leaders, intelligence leaders and Russian political leaders being caught on American intercepts bragging that they can have an influence on the campaign and potentially on American politics, and then you see not long afterwards, a step taken that changes the Republican Party's platform.

TAPPER: That's not party platform --

COONS: That's circumstantial evidence.

TAPPER: Have you seen any actions by President Trump since taking office that are pro-Russian more so than you would want them to be?

COONS: Well, nothing more striking than the recent meeting in the Oval Office of the foreign minister of Russia where there was inappropriate sharing of highly classified intelligence.

So, I am encouraged that across several settings, President Trump has stood up to, for example, Bashar al Assad in Syria, a Russian proxy, someone who is only in power because of Russian air support and Russian military support. I am encouraged that there hasn't been this sort of widespread, wide-open embrace of Vladimir Putin and Putin's Russia that I was afraid would happen or a complete rejection of NATO.

But, Russia has not yet paid any real price for their significant interference in our 2016 elections and the fact that that hasn't happened yet continues to put the future of our democracy at risk, puts our allies at Western Europe at risk, interference by Russia in the most recent French election, their ongoing attempts at interference in the upcoming German election should be ringing alarm bells in this country that our next elections are at stake as well. The Trump administration has to take tougher action against Russia.

TAPPER: Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, thanks so much. Appreciate your time, sir.

More breaking news into CNN this time on the Russian investigation. We're learning the FBI has denied a request from the House Oversight Committee. The chairman now responding. That's next. Stay with us.


[16:23:22] TAPPER: We're back with some breaking news.

In the politics lead, a delay for one of the congressional panels reviewing the dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey. The U.S. Justice Department says for now, it will not turn over documents to the House Oversight Committee related to Comey's communications with President Trump.

CNN's Manu Raju joins me now live from Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, those documents the DOJ says it cannot provide right now, they likely include the Comey memos.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, no question. That's exactly what the House Oversight Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee have called for. And those are the documents that the FBI says it cannot provide at this moment, saying that they need to consult with new special counsel Bob Mueller, this is necessary for his investigation.

But, nonetheless, Jake, this is prompting some frustration on Capitol Hill, Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sending a letter back to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, saying that he does want these records even if it's not today he wants them eventually. Now, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley also told me earlier this week that he's prepared to subpoena for these records if they are not met in a timely basis.

Now, Jake, this all comes as lawmakers are demanding more information from Bob Mueller about exactly the direction that his investigation is going. One Democrat on this Senate Judiciary Committee, Sheldon Whitehouse, told me earlier today that it's possible that Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, could be cooperating with the Justice Department as part of the investigation and nobody on Capitol Hill even knows about it. He wants to know if that's actually the case.

Now, some other development just happened moments ago, Jake, on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

[16:25:03] They just announced they are giving Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, and vice chairman of the committee, Mark Warner, the ability to unilaterally subpoena for documents as part of the Russia probe and effort, Jake, to speed up a probe that's been going longer than some Democrats would like, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thanks so much.

A Republican candidate for Congress snaps and allegedly body slams a reporter but Republicans still hope he'll have your vote today. Where is the outrage? Whatever happened to decency?

That's next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Montana as a state is generally defined by the continental divide.

But today, we're seeing evidence of a different kind of divide in that state, one of fundamental decency and general standards of adult behavior. As a special election became something more like Wednesday night smack down.

Overnight, the Republican nominee, in a special congressional race, Greg Gianforte, was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly body slamming a reporter Ben Jacobs of "The Guardian". It was caught on audiotape.


BEN JACOBS, THE GUARDIAN: -- the CBO score. Because, you know, you've been waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill, and it just came out --


JACOBS: But, you got to --

GIANFORTE: I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last guy that came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!

JACOBS: Jesus!

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. You with "The Guardian"?

JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS: You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.

JACOBS: You'd like me to get the hell out of here? I'd also like to call the police. Can I get you guys' names?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you got to leave.

JACOBS: He just body-slammed me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to leave.