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More Trouble for Sessions?; Pulling Out of Paris; What the Covfefe? Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 1, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:09] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: The attorney general facing new questions in the Russia investigation. Did Jeff Sessions have more undisclosed meetings with the Kremlin during the campaign? Just one of several key developments.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump expected to announce a withdrawal from the Paris climate accord today. What does it mean for the U.S. role on key global issues? We're live in Paris.

BRIGGS: And it's the gift that keeps on covfefing, I suppose. Sean Spicer giving the story plenty of new life. Now it's evolving into an online battle between the Trumps and the Clintons. Yes, we are still relitigating the 2016 campaign.

And it is June 1st, everybody. Good morning. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Again, first day of the month, but the same old same old --

BRIGGS: Same old, same old --

ROMANS: Snickering -- snickering? I don't know what it is exactly.

BRIGGS: Bickering.

ROMANS: Bickering. Four a.m. in the East.

We have four new developments, though, on the Russia investigation to tell you about this morning. New questions about whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had another previously undisclosed meeting during the campaign with the Russian ambassador. The White House no longer taking questions about Russia, referring everything, everything about Russia now referred to the president's lawyer.

BRIGGS: Sources say former FBI Director James Comey plans to testify the president did, indeed, try to pressure him on the bureau's Russia probe, and the House Intelligence Committee issuing its first subpoenas. The batch includes some signed by Chairman Devin Nunes, who promised to step aside from the Russia investigation.

ROMANS: First now on Attorney General Sessions. Capitol Hill and intelligence sources telling CNN investigators are focusing on a Trump campaign event at Washington's Mayflower Hotel last April. A Trump campaign event at the Mayflower last April. Then-Senator Sessions and the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, attended a small VIP reception.

Among other things, the FBI wants to know if there was an additional private meeting between Sessions and the ambassador.

BRIGGS: Sources say if there was such a meeting, it may have been just incidental. Sessions has previously failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials. He testified to Congress he hadn't had communications with the Russians, when, in fact, he had met with Kislyak twice during the campaign. That gaffe forced Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

ROMANS: Responding to the latest questions, the Department of Justice says Sessions did not have any private or side conversations with any Russian official at the Mayflower Hotel. The DOJ adds in part, quote: The Department of Justice appointed special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter. We will allow him to do his job.

BRIGGS: The Justice Department not alone in fending off inquiries about Russia. Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying in an audio-only briefing that the White House will no longer take questions on the investigation.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our job -- we are focused on the president's agenda and all -- going forward, all questions on these matters will be referred to outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BRIGGS: President Trump hired Kasowitz last week to head up a legal team aimed at guiding the president through all the investigations into Russian election meddling. The White House is also hoping -- referring questions to outside counsel will allow West Wing staff to focus less on the Russia investigation.

ROMANS: We have new information on the FBI director's appearance before the Senate Intel Committee, which may happen next week. Sources close to the issue say James Comey will testify publicly that President Trump did, indeed, pressure him to drop a key part of the FBI's investigation.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has the latest from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dave and Christine, James Comey's much-anticipated testimony could happen as soon as next week. That's according to sources. The details of this testimony, they're still being determined, but sources do say the fired FBI director will once again sit before the Senate Intelligence Committee and publicly recount his run-ins with the president.

As you'll remember, it was back on February 14th when Comey had that meeting with President Trump, and sources say the president urged Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Sources do say Comey documented the president's plea in this way, saying: I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.

The president once again invoked Comey's name in a tweet Wednesday morning, saying in part, quote: The false or misleading testimony of James Comey, John Brennan, witch hunt.

We know that James Comey has spoken with special counsel Robert Mueller to work out the parameters of his testimony to Congress, and we know that Comey will likely sit down with Mueller for a formal interview after that testimony -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Jessica, thank you for that.

[04:05:00] On the other side of the Capitol, the embattled House Intelligence Committee issuing its first subpoenas. A source close to Michael Flynn says the former national security adviser will comply. President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has said he will not comply with the panel voluntarily, but will comply with the subpoena.

BRIGGS: A congressional source telling CNN that out of seven subpoenas in total, four related to the Russia probe, the other three related to so-called unmasking of American names from redacted foreign surveillance reports. Sources say those subpoenas came from Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, not from the committee's Russia investigation, and they were issued without the consent of Democrats on the panel.

ROMANS: The move raises questions about Nunes and his role in the Russia probe. He had said he was stepping aside temporarily from that investigation, though, you know, he never officially recused himself. We also learned recently that Nunes was still reviewing intel on the Russia investigation.

BRIGGS: Later today, President Trump expected to announce the United States is pulling out of the Paris climate accord. White House officials caution nothing is final until the president speaks this afternoon. It's not clear how a potential withdrawal would work, but pulling out of the climate agreement would be a major blow to the legacy of President Obama and a significant break from international partners in the fight against global warming.

So, how's this playing out with America's allies?

Let's go live to Paris and bring in CNN's Melissa Bell.

Good morning to you, Melissa. Great to have you.

It is strange optics, to say the least, how the United States alone with Nicaragua and Syria in a group not in the Paris climate agreement. How is this playing overseas? MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. If,

Dave, as we expect, Donald Trump makes this announcement later today in the Rose Garden, it will be joining a very select and particular group of countries. Syria, for reasons we understand, simply didn't have the infrastructure to join the agreement, and, of course, Nicaragua, which chose not to sign up for the climate change deal because it didn't go far enough.

And so, the euphoria of a year and a half ago when all of those countries managed to come together to sign this historic deal here in Paris has really given way to a great deal of concern on the part of European leaders. I'd like to show you a tweet this morning from the European Council President Donald Tusk, urging President Trump not to make, in parentheses, the political climate worse. And I think that really says it all.

It isn't simply about the climate or the environment or the future of climate change negotiations, Dave. It's actually also about the United States' position as a global leader, and it would, I think if he does confirm what we believe he is to confirm later today, really in the minds of many European leaders, confirm what has been a suspicion, that the United States, as Angela Merkel put it most explicitly over the course of the weekend, simply can no longer be counted upon as an ally globally.

And I think the attention of Europeans would then shift to other potential allies on the climate, like for instance China, but also to other allies on other issues more globally. Europe feels that it's lost a very important ally, a leader on so many global issues. And I think that if the announcement comes as it does today, it will simply be a further nail in the coffin of what has been a historic alliance now for decades.

BRIGGS: Melissa Bell live for us in Paris -- thank you very much.

ROMANS: A lot of business leaders say they expect Chinese companies to take the lead here and China to take the lead on the global stage for this.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: When it comes to the climate deal, big business has one question for the president -- will America be a global leader or put itself first?

Hundreds of companies say business will suffer if the U.S. withdraws. Business leaders lobbying the president with public campaigns and with private phone calls and personal letters, including Tesla founder Elon Musk. Musk tweeted that he had done all he could to persuade President Trump to remain in the treaty, even threatening to quit as one of the president's advisers. He's very upset about this.

Companies like this deal. They like the Paris deal because they like predictability. This provides a framework. They can boost competiveness with clean tech and minimize the business risk of global warming, because that's how investors see climate change, a business risk.

In fact, shareholders of ExxonMobil now demand the oil giant stress test for climate risks. Energy companies like Exxon and Shell are actually supporting the Paris deal. It favors the cleaner natural gas they produce over coal, and coal, of course, is central to the president's threat to withdraw. The White House promises lifting environmental rules will revive that industry, but market forces, not regulation, may be the primary driver killing coal jobs.

Natural gas is not only cleaner, but cheaper than coal. It is so interesting, because even people in the president's inner circle see differently than the president does.

BRIGGS: Gary Cohn, notably.

ROMANS: Absolutely, yes.

BRIGGS: Well, it is interesting. Some say regardless of what happens with Paris, the president has already undercut the Paris climate agreement anyway by executive order, so --

[04:10:01] ROMANS: And that's one of the things inside the White House that he is being counseled, that already the United States is gutting so many of these environmental protections that you can't stay in the Paris climate agreement and do both of those things.

BRIGGS: Would it do bigger harm to stay in it and not abide by what we committed to?

We'll go on, but we'll also go on about the tweet that just won't quit.

Just when the world was ready to move on from covfefe, covfefe, White House spokesman Sean Spicer raised 1,000 more questions. Spicer could have passed off the president's now-infamous post as a harmless typo. It happens to nearly all of us who use Twitter, but that wouldn't have been nearly as dramatic as this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you think people should be concerned that the president then posted somewhat of an incoherent tweet last night and that it then stayed up for hours?

SPICER: Uh, no.

REPORTER: Why did it stay up so long? Is no one watching this?

SPICER: No, I think the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant. Blake?

(CROSSTALK)

REPORTER: What is covfefe?

(END AUDIO CLIP) ROMANS: The president and a small group of people know exactly what

he meant. So, why did the president leave his covfefe tweet up for six hours? We may never know, but it sure triggered a nasty exchange between Hillary Clinton and the Trumps.

Listen to this comment Secretary Clinton made at an event in California last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think we can get into covfefe right now, because it's a longer thing, but --

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought it was a hidden message to the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you did?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: That's not all Hillary had to say. She also went after "The New York Times," the Democratic Party and former FBI Director James Comey for her loss in November. Never mentioning Wisconsin, by the way.

President Trump responding: Crooked Hillary Clinton now blames everybody but herself, refuses to say she was a terrible candidate, hits Facebook and even Dems and DNC.

And, Christine, we weren't done, were we?

ROMANS: No, it doesn't end there. Clinton firing back, tweeting, "people in covfefe houses shouldn't throw covfefe."

That's when Donald Trump Jr. came to his father's defense, everyone following here. This is what he tweeted: what house is he in again? That's what I thought. You're trying too hard.

BRIGGS: At the heart of this, of course, the question, why Sean Spicer just didn't just say he fell asleep while tweeting and misfired? Why?

ROMANS: You know, there's -- you know, this is funny, right? All of this is funny, except there is a credibility issue that is key. Sean Spicer and the press briefing room -- if something terrible were to happen with a foreign power, right, Sean Spicer's the one who has to stand up there and tell the media and tell the American people the truth about what's happening and not play games, you know, about what's happening in the White House.

BRIGGS: Right. If there was another nuclear test in North Korea --

ROMANS: That's a credibility test. BRIGGS: And if you're doing an off-camera briefing, we can't

interpret if you're joking or not. Was he joking about a small group of people actually know what that misfire was? Anyway.

LeBron James forced to address racism after a racial taunt was painted at his house.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, you know, being black in America is -- it's tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: And that's on the eve of the NBA Finals. We'll hear more from LeBron James, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:17:30] BRIGG: A powerful response from LeBron James after someone spray-painted the "N" word on the front gate of his California home. Los Angeles police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. Listen to LeBron delivering this heartfelt assessment of American society on the eve of his seventh straight appearance in the NBA finals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES: Hate, you know, in America, especially for an African- American, is living every day. And even though that it's concealed most of the time, even though people hide their faces and will say things about you and when they see you, they smile in your face, it's alive every single day.

And I think back to Emmett Till's mom, actually, it's kind of one of the first things I thought of, and the reason why she had an open casket is because she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as a hate crime and, you know, being black in America. So, it's like, it doesn't -- no matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, you know, being black in America is -- it's tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: You heard LeBron James refer to Emmett Till's mother in those comments. Of course, Till was a black teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 at the age of 14 years old.

James and his Cleveland Cavaliers will square off tonight against the Golden State Warriors in game one of the NBA finals. I've got to say, his -- he said it so well.

BRIGGS: Yes, he really did, and LeBron James is often compared to Michael Jordan, but the biggest difference is how socially conscious LeBron James is. Michael Jordan famously stayed out of the fray. ROMANS: Yes.

BRIGGS: In everything. LeBron James takes it head on and I think is very eloquent in doing so.

ROMANS: Just yesterday we heard how he has these aspirations for being an owner.

BRIGGS: Owning a team.

ROMANS: Yes. You know, he's somebody who has had great success young but has been financially quite savvy about building his future.

BRIGGS: He was eloquent in expressing himself. Mr. Met, not so much.

ROMANS: No, no, the New York Mets issuing a public apology, actually, for what happened with Mr. Met. I think we can show you. OK, apparently, we're going to get to that later, but we'll show you that.

BRIGGS: Look it up, Google it. We'll get to Mr. Met in a bit.

[04:20:01] But President Trump's promise to move the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem on hold for now. We're live in Jerusalem to explain why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: President Trump is expected to renew a six-month waiver to keep the U.S. embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv. That's despite a campaign pledge to move it to Jerusalem. Senior officials say the president still supports the move but believes the timing just isn't right.

For more, CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us right now live in Jerusalem with the latest.

Good morning. This was a very significant campaign pledge from this president.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of his most significant and one of his most controversial.

[04:25:02] The expectation here, at least for a couple of months there, was that he really would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

But it was one of the first campaign promises the Trump administration walked back, and now the expectation is and has been at least for a few weeks now, that the embassy is staying exactly where it is in Tel Aviv, that as Trump and his adviser, or his envoy for the Middle East peace process, Jason Greenblatt, try to pursue some sort of renewal of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. It seems Trump realizes that moving the embassy would essentially destroy his chances of making any progress on the peace process.

It's also worth noting that he was just in the region where he met with the Saudi king and the king of Jordan, both of whom would have pressured him on this not to move the embassy, knowing that he would ruin all of that goodwill he built up with the Arab leaders if he did move the embassy. That being said, Trump still has the opportunity every six months, and he could wait until a peace process either succeeds or fails before moving it. The Israeli right, which pressured him to move the embassy, has been fairly quiet, and we don't expect to see too much criticism, because frankly, they're nervous about being seem to criticize Trump.

Trump faces a risk on that end, in that he may anger evangelical Christians who called on him to move the embassy and were a big part of his voter base -- Christine.

ROMANS: A very big part of his voter base.

All right, a six-month waiver for now. Thank you so much, Oren Liebermann.

BRIGGS: All right. Former Vice President Joe Biden launching a new political action committee, once again stoking speculation he might run for the top job in 2020. In a solicitation e-mail for his American Possibilities PAC, Biden writes, quote: The negativity, the pettiness, the small-mindedness of our politics drives me crazy. It's not who we are. The history of this nation is one of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and that's who we still are.

Earlier this month, Biden said he likely would not run again, but sticking to his never say never script, he did not write off the possibility.

ROMANS: No, he didn't write off the possibility. He said if there were no other candidate and he felt good and he thought it was the best thing for America, then -- and he paid off the house, because his wife said they had to pay off the house -- and he paid off the house, then he would consider it.

BRIGGS: So, how lost are Democrats that a would-be 74-year-old, a would-be 78-year-old are the top candidates for 2020.

ROMANS: You could say how lost are they, how concerned are they, you know, by the status quo? Who knows? It will be interesting to see who rises up out of the Democratic ashes.

BRIGGS: Never too early to look ahead.

All right. We'll look ahead with Jeff Sessions. Did he have more undisclosed meetings with Russian officials during the campaign?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't believe so. You know, we meet a lot of people, so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: That's what he said in March, but investigators are not so sure. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)