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Comey Testifies Thursday About Trump Confrontations; White House On Blocking Comey Testimony: Trump Will "Review"; Marchers In U.S. Cities Demand Trump-Russia Answers; Could Trump Block Comey Testimony With Executive Privilege? Aired 11a-Noon ET

Aired June 3, 2017 - 11:00   ET

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


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FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. It's 11:00 in Washington, D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for being with me.

The White House remarkably quiet today ahead of one of the most high pressure weeks of Trump's presidency. In just five days, fired FBI Director James Comey will testify about his private conversations about the president. The White House is deciding should Trump assert executive privilege to block that testimony.

While the president is strategizing how to manage the Russia investigation, protesters across the country are demanding transparency. This is video from the March for Truth. Demonstrators want to know how Russia affected the 2016 election.

And Vice President Mike Pence is back with his base on the heels of the president's controversial climate decision. He will speak at Joni Ernst's Annual Roast 'N Ride. We will bring you the comments from the vice president when it happens.

But first, when James Comey faces the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, the senators will have one particular question on their minds. Did President Trump ask him to shut down the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn?

Before that, another issue, will the president try to stop Comey from testifying altogether? The White House says it is under review. The "New York Times" reports the president is not planning to do that. CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New insight into how James Comey might recount his conversations with the president. A source with knowledge of Comey's thinking says that while Comey was disturbed by his interactions with President Trump, Comey believed he had the situation under control.

A source said that Comey believed at the time any specific encounter constituted obstruction of justice, Comey would have done more than just write a memo. But when Comey pieces together the president's possible pressure to drop the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn in his testimony next week, the source thinks it is possible Comey could come to a different conclusion.

The White House is now weighing whether to assert executive privilege to block Comey's testimony, though, counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, indicated she expects Comey to talk.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We will be watching with the rest of the world when Director Comey testifies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will not invoke executive privilege?

CONWAY: The president will make that decision.

SCHNEIDER: Comey no longer works for the government. So the president can't order him to stay silent and some say President Trump's tweets about Comey and declarations like these --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We had a very nice dinner and at that time he told me you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway.

SCHNEIDER: -- waived the president's right. Others argue asserting executive privilege is necessary.

PETE HOEKSTRA (R), FORMER HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It sets a dangerous precedent that the president's conversations, private conversations can be revealed. It will be a he said-he said type of thing. It is one side of the story. I don't think that helps the process.

SCHNEIDER: And there are continuing questions about Jared Kushner's mid-December meeting with Russian bank chairman, Sergei Gorkov, a man who has close ties to President Vladimir Putin. The White House insists Kushner conducted the meetings in his capacity during the transition.

VEB bank maintains it was part of their, quote, "business road show." The meeting was arranged after Kushner met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in early December at Trump Tower. In St. Petersburg Friday, President Putin defended the talks.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Our ambassador met someone. That is what the ambassador must do. That's his work. He is getting paid for that. He must meet and discuss current affairs. He must make agreements.

SCHNEIDER: Kushner's meetings with Russian officials came as Russia was feeling pressure from the U.S. sanctions imposed after Russia's action in Ukraine. Retired Coordinator of Sanctions Policy, Dan Fried, is now speaking out about his efforts to stop the Trump administration from lifting Russian sanctions earlier this year.

Fried retired from the State Department in February and said he contacted lawmakers in an effort to codify the sanctions, something that never happened.

DAN FRIED, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT COORDINATOR FOR SANCTIONS POLICY: Lifting sanctions without the Russians doing anything is a free gift and strikes me now as a bad, bad idea. My colleagues were concerned about this and so was I at the time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would not comment on reports that the administration is considering returning seized Russian compounds here in the U.S. Sean Spicer also said that Jared Kushner absolutely continues to have the full confidence of the president. Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk more about all of this now with CNN political commentator, David Swerdlick. He is an assistant editor for the "Washington Post," and Lynn Sweet is Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun Times." Good to see both of you.

All right, so the president or the White House weighing whether executive privilege is something to use. So what exactly, Lynn, might the White House be weighing in trying to make that decision?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, I don't think we will know right away. Thursday is a long way off in political time.

[11:05:04]I think they are weighing not just the success of the challenge to the Senate Intelligence Committee and Comey to proceed, but whether or not a fight is worth it. It is not lineal. It is not will he testify or not. There are various stops along the way.

WHITFIELD: Could be limitations --

SWEET: You could have -- so we know that a president has privilege, but it's not absolute privilege. You could have a negotiation as to what the testimony would be about. The Senate could reject a claim of presidential privilege. The Senate could go to court. Comey could go to court.

So we have a lot of twists and turns and if there is a court fight, it might not be resolved. I think to think I'm most curious about here is if it goes to what happened in those meetings? Will we finally find out if indeed President Trump has a recording device in the oval office?

WHITFIELD: Right. So we are five days away from the scheduled testimony, but as Lynn was, you know, spelling out there, it could be delayed by days or weeks if it were to go into federal court, et cetera. But the White House runs a huge risk, does it not? If it puts any kind of barriers in place, it certainly then looks like they are trying to hide something.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Exactly, Fred. There is a legal and political question. The legal question which greater minds have yet to sort out. Maybe hinges on this idea that even though the president has executive privilege, he has revealed some of these conversations already.

So if Director Comey testifies, in a way, he is offering a rebuttal or an alternative version not divulging information in the first place. But as you say, the political question is do they want to look like they have something to hide.

Whether or not it is delayed, the second that it goes public, if this happens, we don't know if it happens, maybe probably not. But if the second that it goes public, that the president wants to claim executive privilege and stop Director Comey from testifying.

The story changes from everything we have been talking about all these weeks leading up to now to what are they trying to cover up. That probably is a big problem for them. Even though they proceeded this far along not divulging all the information.

WHITFIELD: And there are lots of reports about these contemporaneous notes that James Comey was holding on to. That apparently he felt very disturbed about his interactions with the president and that he even said reportedly that the president needed to be trained about, you know, how to interact with the intelligence.

So if Comey goes forward and does testify, how much is to be expected that the bulk of that kind of apprehension or worry that Comey had will also be laid all out?

SWEET: Well, that would be there. One thing I am wondering if the committee will do, will they ask for Comey's notes? Will Comey assert ownership or privilege? I imagine these are subpoenable documents and let's just see first -- if I were doing this as an investigator or investigative journalist, first let's see what you wrote down because that will inform the questions that I ask.

WHITFIELD: Because in court, you submit those notes. It would be evidence, but as it pertains to hearings on the Hill (inaudible) --

SWEET: You have that. And if this was the case and you were my lawyer, you have deposed the witness beforehand, too, which a congressional committee could do. I don't think they would in this case. So it could be in the end if Comey says I feel pressured, that is a conclusion he will come to, but these notes he has are important. If there are recordings in the oval office or not, that becomes a big issue.

WHITFIELD: But Comey's testimony will solidify whether indeed there are recordings or not.

SWEET: But you think if they are going down that route, if the issue is what was Comey pressured? We could find out by what he says, we could find out what the recordings say because isn't that the core of the issue? His recollection of the conversation or recording of the conversation.

What you conclude from that, of course, is what his interpretation will be, but if there is recording, and the president has suggested there is. I would think that the Senate probably at the beginning needs to tidy that up one way or the other.

SWERDLICK: I would say we may or may not find out about the notes or recording. I think the headline, though, if Comey does indeed testify on Thursday is you know, does he say, yes, my version of events is true or the president's version of the events is true. Did the president try to tell Director Comey to slow down or shutdown?

WHITFIELD: Right. And one can safely assume that Comey may have already talked with Special Counsel Mueller to see what he should be able to testify publicly.

SWERDLICK: In open session.

WHITFIELD: So as not to interfere with his investigation. All right, David, Lynn, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

All right, don't miss a minute of James Comey's testimony just five days from now this Thursday. Watch our special coverage beginning at 9:00 a.m. right here on CNN.

[11:10:10]All right, coming up, bikes, barbecue, and big political names, the vice president is at the Annual Roast N Ride in Iowa today. So what is his message to voters there? That's next.

Plus, Americans across the country are marching for the truth demanding answers from the White House over Russia's interference in last year's election. Stay with us.

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WHITFIELD: Welcome back. As the Russia investigation casts a dark shadow on the White House, thousands of protesters are demanding officials shed light on the Russian involvement in the elections and more. Demonstrators have planned more than 135 demonstrations today in cities across the U.S. dubs the "March for Truth."

Dan Lieberman joins me now from New York from that march with more details. So Dan, what kind of action are these demonstrators looking for?

[11:15:07]DAN LIEBERMAN, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fredricka. Good morning. Well, the crowd has really grown here. We have been here for a few hours and now they are marching further down to Manhattan. Protesters are calling for a few things, mainly, they are calling for the truth.

They say that they want an independent commission set up to investigate any possible ties between Russia and the Trump administration. They are also calling to beef up the current investigations going on in Washington right now that they say are under staff and underfunded.

They say they also want to see Trump's tax returns. From what we have seen, the administration has no plans of releasing his tax returns, but they are saying that the Trump tax returns could show possible connections and financial ties to Russia, and they want to see them. And so the crowd has really grown here. You can see behind me it is really taken shape. A few hundred protesters now marching towards Wall Street, the famous bull. They are going to be marching down there putting wreath.

They are going to be laying down wreaths and commemorating the now infamous Bowling Green massacre that Kellyanne conway coined a few months ago leading to sort of this alternative facts phrase. So that's what's happening -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dan Lieberman, thank you so mc. Looks like a strong crowd behind you. I appreciate it.

All right, next as James Comey gets ready to testify on Capitol Hill, all eyes turn to the White House. Will the president invoke his executive privilege and block the fired FBI director from testifying? We'll discuss that with our legal team after this.

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WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. All eyes are on former FBI Director James Comey, who is set to testify Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 election, a probe Comey was leading until President Trump fired him. Both men have very different accounts of their past meetings in fact. Here to break it all down for us, CNN's Randi Kaye.

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RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In January this year, a dinner at the White House, now under scrutiny. Dining together President Donald Trump and then FBI Director James Comey. Mr. Trump had been sworn in seven days earlier.

On that night, a source says, the president asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him. Comey instead offering to give the president his honesty. The president had a very different account of that dinner meeting when he spoke to NBC last month.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: So I think he asked for the dinner. He wanted to stay on as the FBI head and I said I'll consider it. We'll see what happens.

KAYE: The White House pushed back on the loyalty question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the dinner that the president had with James Comey earlier in January, did the president implore him to pledge loyalty to the president? Is that true?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No.

KAYE: The president says Comey also told him at dinner that he was not under investigation and that Comey repeated it again twice later. PRESIDENT TRUMP: That time he told me you are not under investigation -- and during the phone call he said it and then during another phone call he said it. So he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ask if I'm under investigation?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said if it is possible, would you let me know am I under investigation. He said you are not under investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was the president seemingly so consumed by this that he would ask that question on three separate occasions?

SPICER: I think because the narrative continues to be perpetuated. He wanted clarity to make sure.

KAYE (on camera): Still on February 14th, another key moment between President Trump and Director Comey. This time in the oval office. Sources say Comey documented the meeting in a memo which was described to CNN.

Comey says the president ushered others out of the room including the vice president then Trump allegedly asked Comey to drop the investigation into General Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia. Flynn was fired as Trump's national security adviser after admitting to inappropriate contacts with Russia.

(voice-over): A source told CNN Comey was so surprised by the president's request, he documented everything he could remember for senior FBI officials. In his memo, Comey said the president told him 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.

A source told CNN, Comey was concerned that the president was trying to stop the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form, to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn and also as --

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No. No. Next question.

KAYE: Despite that, just days after firing Comey in May, President Trump dropped this bombshell, suggesting he let Comey go because of the Russia investigation.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.

KAYE: Of course, that only raised more questions about the possibility of obstruction of justice given Comey's testimony before Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are conducting an investigation to understand whether there was any coordination between the Russian efforts and anybody associated with the Trump campaign.

KAYE: Benjamin Wittes is a friend of Comey's spoke to Anderson Cooper about how Comey thought personal contacts with the president was inappropriate.

BENJAMIN WITTES, FRIEND OF JAMES COMEY: This is a guy with a story to tell. I think if I were Donald Trump, that would scare me a lot. He did feel like there were these numerous incidents where the president was kind of probing the edges of his defenses.

[11:25:06]And all in the service of making him a -- seeing whether you could make a loyalist out of him.

KAYE: And it wasn't just James Comey the president may have been trying to influence. In March, just days after Comey revealed the FBI probe into the possible Trump campaign connections to Russia, the president asked two of the government's top intelligence chiefs to publicly deny evidence of collusion between his team and the Russian government.

Sources tell CNN both the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, and National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers were uncomfortable with the nature of the president's request and refused to comply. The White House declined to comment and so did Director Coats when asked by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't feel it is appropriate to characterize the discussions and conversations with the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress really needs to find out whether there was an active effort to interfere in the investigation or to draw in the agencies or leadership in the way that would politicize the agencies.

KAYE: The effort to uncover the truth continues. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: All right, so this Thursday's scheduled testimony could be the most consequential and dramatic to date unless the plot thickens and President Trump tries to assert executive privilege to block Comey from testifying. If Trump is able to invoke executive privilege, it would essentially shut down Comey from telling his side of the story at least temporarily.

Let's bring in now CNN legal analyst and constitutional attorney, Page Pate. All right, Page, good to see you. So in Randi's piece, she reminds us that it was Donald Trump who said there were two phone calls and a meeting.

And it was the president who actually asked Comey if he was under investigation. So given that is all out there, did he essentially waive his right to use or invoke executive privilege? PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he did, Fred. I mean, that is one of the clearest reasons why I don't think executive privilege is appropriate in the situation like this. I don't think a court would enforce any attempt by the White House to invoke executive privilege.

If you think back to the Obama administration during the investigation into the fast and furious ATF operation, Congress wanted to get access to a lot of documents relating to the discussions about how that operation was put together and how it was going to be portrayed to the media.

The Obama administration said no. We will assert privilege here an executive deliberative privilege and not produce these documents. It was challenged in court and the Obama administration lost for that very same reason because they had already disclosed some of that information publicly. So there was no need for the privilege.

WHITFIELD: OK, also with this former White House ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, also joining in on the conversation. Good to see you, Richard. So if this White House says it is reviewing whether executive privilege is something they want to use, what are the things that they are reviewing?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, there are two serious problems with using the executive privilege here. First, Director Comey is not a current employee of the government. So they have no ability to persuade him not to testify if he wants to testify.

The vast majority of situations where executive privilege is asserted, it is asserted by current White House employee who says that executive privilege is being asserted and therefore he refuses to testify. That will not likely be the case with Mr. Comey, who is no longer employed by the president and fired by the president and referred to in derogatory terms with the Russian ambassador by the president.

Second, the president tweeted about Director Comey, has talked about Director Comey with a number of people, including with the Russian ambassador. It would be absurd to say the president has a right to talk about Comey with the Russian ambassador and Comey doesn't have the right to tell the United States Congress what the president said to Mr. Comey. It makes no sense.

I think the privilege if there was any has been waived. As I said, since he is not a current government employee, it will be impossible and very difficult to get him not to testify if that's what he wants to do.

I don't think a court will enter an order telling Director Comey he may not tell Congress what the president of the United States said to him.

WHITFIELD: And then Page, it may have been made difficult the president in so doing with this veiled threat. The tweet a while ago which the president said James Comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press. So perhaps, you know, some interpret that as a veiled threat. We also know that, you know, when Comey testifies, there are a number of people in the Senate Intelligence Committee, who know him well, who are friends with him. Perhaps he goes in with advantage, but what would be some of the questions you would ask James Comey knowing that tweet and knowing the recorded circumstances of these meetings?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm certain everyone in Congress and everyone in America wants to know James Comey's version of what happened during those meetings. What actually did the president ask him? Did he make any assurances to the president that he was not under investigation which I find incredible knowing Jim Comey's reputation?

Did James Comey feel pressured by the president during any of these meetings to either drop the investigation or change direction in the investigation? All of that information, I think, is something that the Congress can get into without having to worry about executive privilege.

Now there could be an exception. I'm certain that James Comey will not testify say if they also discuss some matter relating to an ISIS investigation or national security. Something outside of their discussions specifically about the Flynn investigation.

So it is possible, in fact, I think it is likely, that James Comey will reserve some of that conversation and keep that private. But I think he is going to be willing and anxious to discuss Mr. Trump's position specifically on the investigation.

WHITFIELD: And then Richard, how about these contemporaneous notes? There have been may references made to the note taking of James Comey, how might that material assist in the line of questioning on Capitol Hill?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, obviously, if he makes contemporaneous notes, that is strong evidence of what was actually said in these conversations with the president.

WHITFIELD: But in court, it would be submitted perhaps as evidence, but during the Senate Intel Committee type hearing, how might that reference be made?

PAINTER: Well, I think the intel committee will want to see the notes. These notes are going to be evidence possibly it appears that they are evidence of obstruction of justice by the president. But we will see what the notes actually say and how they match up with what Director Comey says and what the president says in response if he has a different version of the facts.

But we just need to know the facts and we will start with Director Comey's version and the notes and his testimony and then go from there. But it is critically important to find out what happened and whether the president of the United States actually engaged in obstruction of justice by threatening to fire the FBI director if he did not stop the Flynn investigation or other aspects of the Russia investigation.

WHITFIELD: And then quickly, Page, how would the version of the president ever be part of the testimony equation on Capitol Hill? He would not be called to testify, would he?

PAGE: No, I can't imagine that he would. I supposed that probably it's something we should expect to see a series of tweets while Comey is testifying. This is not true. That's not what I said. If they can keep his phone away from him, maybe we won't see that. Maybe we'll get another non-answer from Press Secretary Spicer about what the White House's position is.

But this is really going to come down to a credibility question. Do you believe James Comey or do you believe president Trump? And that's going to be a decision for the American people.

WHITFIELD: All right, Page Pate and Richard Painter, good to see both of you, Gentlemen. Thanks so much.

All right, the upcoming Comey testimony, the Russian cloud over the White House and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, all of that will be in focus tomorrow in "STATE OF THE UNION." Jake Tapper sits down with Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Al Gore, and Democratic Senator Mark Warner. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow right here on CNN. We'll be right back.

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WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Washington, D.C. So ever since President Trump announced that the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, there has been one burning question that has dominated the conversation. Does the president actually believe in climate change? It seems no one from the administration has an answer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes or no. Does the president believe that climate change is real and a threat to the United States?

SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: You know it is interesting about all of the discussions we had through the last several weeks have been focused on one singular issue. Is Paris good or not for this country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president share the EPA administrator's thoughts on the topic and why is the administration sort of backed away from using the words climate change?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have not had an opportunity to specifically talk to the president about that.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Does President Trump still believe climate change is a hoax?

GARY COHN, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: What President Trump believes is he was elected to grow the U.S. economy.

BLITZER: But with all due respect, you are not answering the question. Does the president still believe that climate change and global warming is a hoax?

COHN: I'm answering what the president is committed to. You will have to ask him. You have to actually ask him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he believe global warming is a hoax?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT: He believes in clean water and clean environment. He believes that we have to negotiate better deals for this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll ask you one more time, does he believe global warming is a hoax?

CONWAY: You should ask him that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, former secretary of state and presidential candidate, John Kerry, also jumped into fray accusing the president of being self-destructive on the world stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Regrettably, the world is going to pay a price because American leadership is important on this. It took us years of work and leadership by the United States working very specifically with China. I mean, I would ask Donald Trump. Does he think that President Xi and President Macron that the prime minister of Great Britain, the chancellor of Germany, don't know what they are talking about?

[11:40:09]Are they stupid? Is he accusing them of somehow buying into a hoax?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, the White House may not be saying much about the president's views on climate change, but as CNN's Gary Tuchman points out, before he became president, Trump had plenty to say on the matter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump hasn't made it clear where stands on climate change, but as Candidate Trump and Citizen Trump, he certainly did. In December 2015, he had this to say.

TRUMP: While the world is in turmoil and falling apart in so many different ways especially with ISIS, our president is worried about global warming. What a ridiculous situation?

TUCHMAN: And then there was this in September 2015.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that the temperature of the earth is increasing and what would you do if you do believe that vis-a-vis global climate change?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, first of all, I'm not a believer in global warming, I'm not a believer in manmade global warming.

TUCHMAN: He said this about President Obama in April, 2016.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: He said global warming is our biggest problem, OK. We have some big problems. We may have a global warming problem, but it will be of the nuclear variety if we don't have smart people in office and serve.

TUCHMAN: And then this moment during the campaign.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it is real. The science is real.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I did not say that.

TRUMP: But all you have to do is look at President Trump's Twitter feed to see that he did say that in 2012. The concept of global warning was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

In fact, his Twitter feed with scores of tweets on the topic gives a pretty clear window into where he stands on the issue. There is this in January of 2015, "It's record cold all over the country and world. Where the hell is global warming, we need some fast."

And this in February of 2014, "It is not climate change. It is global warming. Don't let the wise guys change names midstream because the first name did not work."

And November 2012, "Let's continue to destroy the competitiveness of our factories and manufacturing so we can fight mythical global warming. China is so happy."

Interestingly back in 2009, Donald Trump did sign a letter along with dozens of other business leaders calling for a meaningful and effective measures to control climate change. There have been occasions where he sounded a bit like he was on defense.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I'm still open minded. Nobody really knows. I'm somebody that gets it and nobody really knows. It is not something that is so hard and fast.

TUCHMAN: But overall, his blizzard of tweets and almost all of his televised comments on the topic have revealed an overwhelming sentiment.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I am not a believer in climate change.

TUCHMAN: Donald Trump has never been shy about expressing that at least until now. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, he has been a world leader for less than three weeks now. We are talking about Emmanuel Macron and already he is getting in Donald Trump's face. We'll look at the message the French president is sending to the White House. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: What are your thoughts on guns in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just grab your head and scream, and say what can you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do we convince people that firearms are not the solution?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So many of my friends were killed because of guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have a gun problem, we have a heart problem. There's no sanctity of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think anybody should be able to own a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every round has two things attached to it, a jail sentence and a lawyer.

BELL: Is it irresponsible to not do all you can to protect your family?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:48:29]

WHITFIELD: CNN's Bill Weir considers himself an American mutt. His words not mine. A student of 17 schools in six different states. He's the son of a televangelist dreamer his mom and atheist cop his father.

And Bill Weir's complicated family members, friends and hometowns reveal an uncanny reflection of so many other neighborhoods across the nation that seem more divided than ever. As the country grapples with conflict and change, Bill journeys through the red and blue states of his youth to talk race, religion and politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY MUELLER, VOTED FOR TRUMP: I voted for Trump.

BILL WEIR, CNN HOST, CNN "STATES OF CHANGE": You did? MUELLER: Yes, I did.

WEIR: And do you still --

MUELLER: I was proud about it and yes, I still feel it's change. I didn't want a puppet, I didn't want Hillary and the same old everything. I wanted someone to come in and rattle the cage.

WEIR (voice-over): Mary is a former classmate, now an accountant, so she understand the economy of a place where retirees and their Social Security checks make up half of the wealth, tourism and agriculture the rest.

MUELLER: People weren't spending money.

WEIR (on camera): Yes.

MUELLER: They weren't getting loans at banks and that stopped everything. All the building came to a halt almost, but now it's coming back.

WEIR: And all this talk about Russia, what do you make of that?

MUELLER: That, you know, no offense to news people, but it just seems a lot of hype is going on. I don't follow it as much as some people do because I don't believe in it. What will come out will come out, and if it's true --

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right, here he is live host of CNN's "STATES OF CHANGE," Bill Weir.

WEIR: Hi, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So before you set out with the cameras did you anticipate that your former neighbors would enlighten you in this manner?

[11:50:09]WEIR: I hope so. You know, you only get so much out of a stranger you meet in a diner somewhere as you try to take the pulse of the nation. Since I've moved around so much and watched sort of a duality in my Facebook feed, friends in the red states gleeful after Election Day and in the blue states in shock and depression.

And I felt like I wanted to be America's marriage counselor in a way, regardless of the politics, regardless of the leadership in Washington, at any given time it's we the people. In times of fear and anger, we tend to sort ourselves in us versus them.

And I wanted to find some connective tissue and remind people why the American experiment is worth fighting for and also understand people's points of views.

You know, Mary Mueller there in Wautoma, Wisconsin, this is a county that went for Obama and Bill Clinton in years past, and I thought there was no way they would fall for a billionaire like Donald Trump, but he won that county two to one. When you go there and see the changes that happened just in my lifetime, it starts to make sense.

WHITFIELD: So then, like a good, you know, counselor then, you did a lot of listening. Did you feel like you also had to do a lot of educating? Did you find that you had to share with people, you know, what may be happening inside Washington since some of your, you know, former neighbors are feeling like they would choose to live in a more insular existence?

WEIR: Sure. Yes. I mean, it really was a listening tour and it really was a sense of I wanted to -- I had this -- it's sort of like we think of the -- we think of our country as 50 states, but we talk about this tonight, there's this great author named Colin Wooder (ph), who has a book called "American Nations."

If you strip away the borders of the 50 states and map our continent by which settlers came with which kind of values there's really like 11 distinct and ethnic and social different value nations, 11 different nations.

So we're like from different countries, sharing the same flag. And I think if you start asking other Americans where are you from, with little less fear, and a little more empathy and sense of wonder, it's sort of -- it takes the temperature down.

You can understand why they vote the way they do if you're an evangelical in Tulsa or live on the north side of Milwaukee where I spent some time as a boy which is one of the most polarized, segregated cities in America. So that's the goal, is to talk about we, the people, in this age of such divisive change.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Where are you from? And you can answer that question and say everywhere.

WEIR: I've been everywhere.

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right. Bill Weir, thanks so much for bringing all of that to us. Can't wait to take the journey along with you. Don't forget you can catch "STATES OF CHANGE" tonight 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

All right, the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM starts right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We wanted to create a place where we wanted to work because we all wanted to live in Palestine, but there wasn't a single place where we could be employees and be happy. It's an online booking service. We actually book hotels and apartments all over the world. We are very, very good at it particularly in the Middle East.

We've taken a lot and tailored it to better suit the Middle Eastern traveler. There wasn't like a light bulb moment. We decided we wanted to do this because the market opportunity was attractive and largely underserved.

With proven business models, it's more about how quickly the team can execute and how well they can execute within a particular setting. And the dominant player in the market is booking.com. They bring in a lot of learning from other markets. We sort of have the hyper local angle. We've innovated a lot around payments.

You can book without a credit card. The Middle East is largely unbanked. We've done a lot of innovation around mobile product and, you know, the Middle East has the highest penetration rate of smartphones.

Finally, bringing a lot of hotels online for the first time and working a lot on the content of these properties to make it available in Arabic.

We look at the entire journey from when you start planning your trip to when you enter your room and check out of it, there's still a lot of friction. You stand at a reception desk and do a bunch of things.

[11:55:00]As we're trying to remove a lot of that and I think by the time that we do, we are going to be able to build a model that's potentially better than outside of the region. There's an abundance of Palestinians that are doing very interesting things. In fact, we're bringing a lot of people back. That I think just creates wonders.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Hello again. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Washington, D.C. Vice President Mike Pence is in Iowa today to headline this year's Roast and Ride" fundraiser with Senator Joni Ernst.

But the turmoil in Washington surrounding Russia, climate change and James Comey's Senate testimony scheduled for next week are putting some Iowa conservatives on edge.