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CNN: Trump Flustered, Irritated by Giuliani's Media Blitz; Soon: Ryan Speaks Amid GOP Push to Hold Sessions in Contempt; NY Attorney General Resigns over Assault Allegations; Trump Urges West Virginia Voters to not Back Blankenship. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired May 8, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow.
This just in to CNN, new reporting that President Trump is not pleased with his new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, far from it. He is irritated. He is frustrated because the man that he brought in to help end the Russia probe may be making it worse for the president, at least on the legal front.
BERMAN: Plus, President Trump on the verge of announcing his decision on the Iran nuclear deal, all signs point to withdrawing. In fact, we believe the president is speaking at this moment with one of the deal's biggest supporters, French President Emmanuel Macron, perhaps informing him of what the United States intends to do officially.
Our Kaitlan Collins following all of this for us at the White House. Kaitlan, I want to start with your brand-new reporting on Rudy Giuliani. What are you hearing?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, John and Poppy, the tide seems to be turning for Rudy Giuliani, just 30 weeks on to the job and the president is disappointed with the way that things have been handled. He was initially satisfied with Rudy Giuliani's performance, especially even after that bombshell announcement on Fox News that president had reimbursed Michael Cohen for the payment made to Stormy Daniels, but we're now told that the president has essentially soured on Rudy Giuliani's media blitz. He's done dozens of interviews in the last week or so with several outlets continuing to talk about Stormy Daniels. We now know that the president is very displeased with what the coverage of that has been, especially since a lot of the coverage is focused on the contradictions and the statements between the president in the past and what Rudy Giuliani is saying now.
And we're told he's especially irked by that clip that has been played on a near constant loop since Sunday when Rudy Giuliani would not rule out the president taking the Fifth Amendment and the special counsel's investigation. And so, the president brought on Rudy Giuliani essentially because he thought he was going to be this brash, volatile guy, someone who's going to take a very aggressive approach in the Russia investigation. And we certainly have seen Rudy Giuliani be aggressive in his interviews on television. But it is not in the way that the president wanted. He believes that he's actually caused more headaches for the president instead of somehow bringing the Russia investigation to an end, like the president assumed he would. And Rudy -- and Poppy and John, he has grown disillusioned with Rudy Giuliani's performance so far.
HARLOW: Kaitlan, the big announcement from the White House today, 2:00 p.m. Eastern, the president will formally announce his decision on whether or not the U.S. stays a party to the Iran nuclear agreement. What more do we know from the White House at this hour?
COLLINS: We are now reporting that the president is expected to allow sanctions on Iran to go forward, which would be the first step in getting out of the Iran nuclear deal. Now he's going to announce that this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. And of course as is standard with this White House, the caveat that we have been given by many officials is nothing is final until the president himself actually says it.
And, of course, all signs lately have pointed to this with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying the president was unlikely to stay in the deal, the president himself calling it an insane deal that never should have been entered into. But we have seen a last ditch effort in recent weeks, especially by leaders of France and Germany to get the president to stay in the Iran deal. And I should note that he is expected to speak with the French President, Emmanuel Macron any minute now. So of course, nothing is final until the president says so, but so far he is expected to move forward to allow those sanctions to go forward. John and Poppy?
BERMAN: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House. We'll let you get back to reporting.
In the meantime, want to bring in Josh Dawsey, CNN political analyst, White House reporter for the "Washington Post." Josh, it is stunning to me that it was just last Wednesday, not even a week, since Rudy Giuliani did his big interview with Sean Hannity and now you heard our Kaitlan Collins, Josh disappears there, you heard our Kaitlan Collins say that the president is disillusioned and frustrated with Rudy Giuliani already. Six days in. So, Rudy Giuliani -- is he going to turn out to be Anthony Scaramucci or is this just going to be John Kelly thing where he's frustrated with him but it goes on for a year?
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think he's going to be an Anthony Scaramucci. I think the perineal story line in the Trump administration is that the president brings in new people. He gets frustrated by these new people when they don't perform exactly how he wants. He vents to people, but he often, you know, keeps them around. I think with Rudy Giuliani there is a bond there between the president and the former New York City mayor. They're kind of a certain generation of New York types. And I don't think he's going anywhere. But I do think the coverage of the past week with Rudy Giuliani's contradictory comments from the president, his many interviews, some of the things he said to walk back or clarify, have simply proven frustrating to the president.
HARLOW: But it is difficult to argue that Rudy Giuliani has made the legal case better for the president on the Russia probe or on Stormy Daniels. But a point that John brought up last hour that is a good one is that maybe he's made it politically better for the president, that he's muddying the waters here. That he's helping to add to at least the president's base and conservatives pushing back against the Mueller probe. Is that possible that he stays on board, not because he's helpful legally but he's helpful politically?
[10:05:10] DAWSEY: Well, certainly, I think there is a more antagonistic strategy with Rudy Giuliani. He's frequently gone after the credibility of Robert Mueller's investigators. You didn't see that with Ty Cobb earlier, the president's former attorney. You see a different strategy. You see him make accusations of not being fair. You've seen Rudy Giuliani accuse him of leaking documents without evidence. You've seen lots of going after them with fresh criticisms.
Whether that makes a better or not, I don't know. It seems like there will be a decision on whether to interview with Mueller's investigators and the upcoming weeks and I think that will be the pivotal turning point to see which way we have here. Is this going to be, you know, a fairly quick resolution, maybe the president goes in, answers the questions, and we see something in the next few months or are we going to have a long protracted court battle over a subpoena and whether the president is forced to interview or not. I think Giuliani will be -- will be driving the boat there.
BERMAN: We are hearing from inside the White House. Our Kaitlan Collins is hearing concern from White House officials about Giuliani's performance -
BERMAN: -- some suggesting, I don't know if this is hopeful or aspiration on their point, that Giuliani will be pushed to the back burner here. From what you're reporting is, Josh, has -- is there a divide between Rudy Giuliani, the television front man and the people working behind the scenes in the West Wing?
DAWSEY: There are deep frustrations last week with his interview because the other lawyers, chief of staff, the communications office, none of these people were told what he was going out to say. And people like to kind of clean up afterwards what they saw to be a political mess. The only person that knew in advance was the president. Rudy Giuliani, at least as of this weekend, was not clear in his appearances with the press office. We reported that. He's kind of a one-man show and what that weaves a lot of frustration back in the West Wing because he goes out and makes grandiose announcements or talks about strategy, maybe he's talked to the president, maybe he hasn't and everyone else around the president has to deal with the ramifications of that.
HARLOW: Josh Dawsey, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.
Meantime, we're waiting for House Speaker Paul Ryan to take questions at the weekly House GOP news conference. This as some members of his party continue pressuring the Department of Justice to hand over documents related to the Russia investigation. What will Paul Ryan say when he's asked to weigh in on the push to hold the Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt?
BERMAN: Joining us now, Mike Rogers, CNN national security commentator, former chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Chairman, this is a very strange situation here -
BERMAN: -- where you have Republican House members threatening to hold the Republican attorney general in contempt and then you have this lukewarm defense of the attorney general from the administration, Mark Short, the Legislative Affairs director said I think we're supportive of our cabinet here. What kind of a message does that send from the administration?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, it is getting pretty messy in a hurry. The last time this happened, by the way, where they tried to hold a cabinet member in contempt was Eric Holder in 2012. And the House voted primarily on one party line to hold Eric Holder in contempt. Remember those documents over fast and furious. They didn't think they were coming. A judge ruled in 2014 that you could - that the criminal side of that was a little bit ridiculous, but the fact that the -- they had to turn over documents.
So, some of this is tension between the legislative branch, equal branch, and the executive branch. What I think you're saying is it makes it a little odd because the fact that now you have I think at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would like to see these documents come to light and that's what is adding to the mystery to this event.
HARLOW: And now you've got two Republican members of Congress calling on the president to actively step in.
Our Manu Raju on the Hill just talked to Representatives Peter King and Mark Meadows. Here is what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, certainly at this point if we don't get the documents, the DOJ, whether it's the attorney general or the deputy attorney general should be held in contempt of Congress.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Justice Department has to turn over the documents.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But if they don't, though, would you support a contempt resolution?
KING: We're not going to get there. The president can order him to do it. I'm counting on the president to do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: We're counting on the president to do the right thing. I mean, how much weirder does that make it?
ROGERS: It is all a little odd. And here is the thing, they're fighting -- the White House is now kind of fighting, President Trump is now fighting the Russia investigation very publicly. He's using Giuliani to go out and try to discredit the investigation. You have an investigation into the other side of this investigation, meaning the House Intelligence Committee wants to find that this thing is illegitimate. That's certainly their stated premise.
And now you have the attorney general who is running the Department of Justice kind of caught in the middle of this shooting match. It is going to be really interesting to see. My biggest fear is that our institutions take a beating in this, and I'll tell you, we need a good and aggressive FBI that is well respected around the country. So we need to get to the bottom of that pretty quickly.
[10:10:06] And I do believe they need to start finding a conclusion to this Russia investigation. -
ROGERS: It cannot go on forever. It is bad for the office of the presidency. It is certainly turned the House into the House of investigations and I just worry about how the public is perceiving the value of these important American institutions to our Democracy. That's also something we should talk about.
BERMAN: One of the things Rod Rosenstein apparently has been worried about, according to "The New York Times," that's happened last week, was that the House Republicans were using their oversight over the Justice Department to get intelligence that they would -
HARLOW: To pass back -
BERMAN: -- to the president here. Do you think, really, Devin Nunes and President Trump, there's no space between these two guys right now. Do you think there is any legitimacy to that fear that Devin Nunes is really acting on behalf of the president's legal defense here?
ROGERS: Well, if you're conducting an investigation in the House of Representatives, it should not go back to the executive branch, period. We are the House -- the Congress is a separate but equal branch of government. And so, if you're using this technique to try to pass information along, they would be in violation of even receiving that information and I think that the Department of Justice would have a case. But they should make that case. I don't think they should make that allegation without being able to show clearly that it is.
Until that happens, I do think that the Department of Justice, you don't have to like them. You don't have to agree with their position. You don't have to agree with where they're taking their investigation. But if they issued a subpoena, they should comply. And that's really what the 2014 ruling against Eric Holder said.
You're not in criminal contempt because you made your case, but you should turn over the documents. That's, again, it is weakening every institution including the Department of Justice when they don't cooperate. If something bad happens, to that information, I mean they take that information, march it down to the White House and put it on the president's desk and he shouldn't have access to that. Well, then now you have a case and you should do something about it. But until that happens, they should comply with the law. I think they should provide these documents to the investigative committees.
HARLOW: Chairman, we appreciate it. Chairman Rogers, thank you.
Ahead for us, he's -- was one of the most public, prominent advocates for the #MeToo movement. Now four women have come forward accusing New York's attorney Eric Schneiderman of physical assault. He's resigned. So what's next?
BERMAN: Key player perhaps in investigating the president as well.
In the meantime, Republicans are on edge, a big primary day, all eyes on West Virginia and ex-convict is a candidate there, could he pull off a win?
And the scramble is on, the president's CIA pick on Capitol Hill trying to get more support. We'll check in. Stay with us.
[10:16:55] BERMAN: All right, a major political development this morning. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced his resignation. It comes after "The New Yorker" published accounts from four women accusing him of physical assault.
HARLOW: Those women say as Schneiderman condemned the likes of Harvey Weinstein, he had his own past of slapping them, choking them and threatening them into submission.
Our Brynn Gingras is here with the reporting. Stunning.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Stunning on so many levels. The hypocrisy, the political angle, I mean, there are just so much going on here. And it is really a tremendous fall from grace for a rising politician. And a man who really was a champion for women during the #MeToo movement.
Now, this is a man who filed an enormous lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein company. And then separately, he reached a $25 million settlement for students of the now defunct Trump University. Here's the story.
Two of the women spoke on the record to "The New Yorker." Two other women wanted to remain anonymous. Now, according to "The New Yorker," three of the women had romantic relations with the attorney general but none say they consented to physical abuse in those relationships. Manning Barish, one of the women describes the abuse like this. "All of a sudden, he just slapped me, open-handed and with great force across the face, landing the blow on to my ear. He then used his body weight to hold me down, and he began to choke me. The choking was very hard, it was really bad. I kicked. In every fiber, I felt I was being beaten by a man." Now Barish recalls going to the hospital after one of these incidents.
Another woman, Tanya Selvaratnam, David Schneiderman, from the summer of 2016 to last fall, and she said this to "The New Yorker." Quote, "Sometimes he'd tell me to call him Master, and he'd slap me until I did. He started calling me his," quote, "brown slave and demanding that I repeat that I was," quote, "his property."
The women also claim many times the abuse happened after Schneiderman had been heavily drinking, sometimes on drugs, and they say he would threaten to kill them if the women left the relationship. At the time, none of these women went to authorities. Schneiderman strongly contests these allegations. He is resigning today. He described the allegations as role playing, quote, "In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in non-consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross."
After the time the article published it just took three hours, three hours for Schneiderman to resign. Our Ronan Farrow, he's one of the writers of this article, this explosive article, he was on "New Day" and said this about the women's stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONAN FARROW, WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": I just want to relate the message of one of these women and it was a shared sentiment among this group, that this was not role playing, that this was not "Fifty Shades of Grey." It wasn't in a gray area at all. This was activity that happened in many cases fully clothed, outside of a sexual context during arguments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRAS: Now, Manhattan D.A.'s Office is investigating Schneiderman's conduct but now new information just moments ago, we learned there is an acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood.
[10:20:02] She was appointed solicitor general in January 2007. She's argued 20 cases before the Supreme Court, and she's clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall. So you can see this is quickly moving forward in many realms today as this is just coming out.
BERMAN: Just three hours. The scope of the allegations makes it clear why he resigned so quickly.
GINGRAS: Absolutely. Thank you.
BERMAN: Thank you very much .
All right, it is primary day in key states across the country, West Virginia, a fascinating election there, a convict on the ballot with a chance of winning. What the president thinks about that, what the president might do about that.
[10:25:07] HARLOW: It is primary day in four states. But the lion's share of the attention is on West Virginia today. Outspoken ex-convict Don Blankenship has many Republican leaders in his own party holding their breath as the former coal executive battles to be the party's nominee for the Senate.
BERMAN: President Trump is among the top Republican officials who are actively trying to stop Blankenship from winning the primary, but not because they're critical of Blankenship per se, they just don't think he can't win the general election.
BERMAN: Joining us now from Charleston, West Virginia, Joe Johns. Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. West Virginia has long been associated with the slogan wild and wonderful. And one of the things certainly about this state is its wild, wonderful politics. This primary race so far is no exception. The incumbent, of course, is Joe Manchin. He's a Democrat. Republicans would very much like to knock him off, especially given the fact that control of the United States Senate could hang in the balance.
There are six candidates on the primary ballot. But the only one people are really talking about much here in the state right now is Don Blankenship, that former coal executive, as well as an ex-convict. He was convicted and served a year for violating the regulations relating to coal mining. He, of course, is controversial in other ways as well. Blankenship has used some very colorful, some say racist language in his campaign. Very much a campaign of grievance, if you will, so much so that some top establishment Republicans have, in fact, asked the president of the United States and he has complied, agreed and went on Twitter opposing the campaign of Blankenship not on the merits, very interestingly because -- but because he says Blankenship cannot win against Joe Manchin, which frankly is something we don't really know the truth about right now.
Blankenship for his part has responded to that. He's been a bit defiant, also indicating in his view, the president doesn't know what he's talking about or is at least not informed. He said in a statement, "I will win the primary. I will beat Joe Manchin. Neither of my opponents can beat Joe Manchin without my support, but I will beat Manchin even without the support of the establishment."
So we have been talking to the Secretary of State, they say turnout is steady. They had a large number of people who voted early. So we'll see how all of that pans out. Back to you.
BERMAN: All right, Joe Johns for us in Charleston. Joe thanks very much.
Let's bring in our panel right now. Kevin Madden, CNN political commentator, Republican strategist, and Christine Quinn, former speaker for the New York City Council.
Kevin, I want to start with you, because the president's argument on Blankenship is he can't win a general election. Jeff Flake, Arizona senator has a different argument here. This is what he says, and I think we have it, we'll put it up on the screen, "The problem isn't that Don Blankenship can't win a general election in West Virginia, it is that he shouldn't win a general election in West Virginia" #countryoverparty. So, why doesn't the president make that case? Why doesn't the Senate leadership make that case?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the problem for Jeff Flake here is that not many of the voters are -- care about electoral politics in the sense that they're not putting the premium on electability.
MADDEN: This is an electorate in West Virginia that has come together around two big issues, coal and cultural conservatism. And for Don Blankenship, who represents, I think, you know, I think he's speaking to the voters on those particular issues and animating them in a way where we have seen the trend line in the last few days in his -- favorable in his direction, this is something where he's taking all of those together and then just confronting the establishment. And the president, you know, he's weighed in at the last minute, but probably not, you know, time enough. I think it was out of a sense of panic than out of a sense of thought out strategy. And that's why we're, you know, we have a lot of these folks like Jeff Flake speaking out because they do want to spend a message about the overall profile party. Question is was it done in time.
CHRISTINE QUINN, FORMER SPEAKER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: You know what I think is ironic and somewhat hysterical is now Donald Trump is the establishment. The man who ran against the establishment, the establishment been dammed. They said I couldn't win, et cetera, et cetera. Now he is being called on as the ultimate Republican establishment to try to get things -
HARLOW: He doesn't want to lose the seat, right? Let me ask you, because we have you here, someone who knows New York -- former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman incredibly well. He has been accused of physically assaulting four women. He resigned three hours after these allegations came out last night. In 2010 you said of him, "He has always stood strong for protecting victims of domestic violence and countless other issues when others looked the other way." You campaigned for his re-election in 2014. He went to your wedding. You know the man. What is your response to this?
QUINN: I'm shocked. If you said to me, pick someone, in political life in New York, who would have done this, I would never have said Eric Schneiderman.