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AT THIS HOUR

Trump: "Can You Imagine Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker"; Progressive Women Score Big Wins in Southern Primaries; CNN, A.P. Denied Access to Pruitt Event for 2nd Day; Trump Sends Mixed Signals on China Trade Negotiations; Lava Threatens Major Hawaiian Power Plant. Aired 11:30a-12n ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] REP. JOE CROWLEY, (D-NY), CHAIR, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: -- providing $50 billion to invest in our teachers and our schools and make being a teacher a solid class.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR; And there's a big question, what should Democrats be running on right now. The reason I ask is because I've gotten two different answers from two different Democrats that have come on the show. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: What I spend most of my time talking about is what I'm working on, health care, raising living standards and opposing extreme legislation from this majority. I think, as Democrats, the more we talk about those issues the better we'll do this November.

REP. GERRY CONNELLY, (D), VIRGINIA: The possibility of extensive Russian interference with our election is a topic of paramount importance, not something I'd run away from, not something I want to avoid. Nor is it something my constituents avoid. They bring it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That was Congressman Boyle and Congressman Connelly.

Which is it in your mind?

CROWLEY: I think the investigation of Russia and its collusion in our -- trying to disrupt our democracy is a very serious issue. That is an issue, and I think we're want just running against Donald Trump. We're running for America. We have a positive message of growth, economic growth and job growth for America that includes a robust infrastructure bill, as I heard someone talking -- and I don't know who it was that was talking --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That was Brendan Boyle.

CROWLEY: Brendan Boyle talking about investing in America, investing in infrastructure, and investing in Americans, giving them good working jobs that pay not a $15 minimum wage but a real decent, $30, $40, $50 an hour wage that can help uplift their families and bridge them to the new economy, and not only building new bridges, but bridging them into the new economy by offering their children an opportunity for four years of college or technical training. And that's what Democrats are talking about.

BOLDUAN: Very quick, Congressman, on the Russian, tomorrow, two Republicans will meet with Justice officials to review classified information about the Russia investigation. As we know now, no Democrats have been invited. Democrats are upset about it. And Sarah Sanders says the reason they're not invited is because they didn't request the meeting and they didn't request the information, and Republicans did. Does she have a point?

CROWLEY: It is absolutely absurd what's taking place. The president is meddling in his own investigation. The FBI and the Justice Department are not tools of the president of the United States. They work for the people of the United States. And any classified information that is being given ought to at the very least be bipartisan. We have the Gang of Eight. We can have all four leaders of the House and the Senate and each side go to the White House and hear this information. Instead, he's chosen two very partisan individuals within the House to hear this information and not to share that information, which many of us believe is totally unwarranted and bogus to begin with. It is purely there to helps on own defense team. And it's absurd and absolutely outrageous. And when is it going to stop, and when is this president going to stop abusing his power?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: If they opened it up now and had to be bipartisan, would you recommend Democrats go?

CROWLEY: I think if there's something there that he believes we should be seeing and understanding in terms of an investigation that -- clearly, the House has stopped its investigation. They've ended it. So maybe this is the only vehicle of which we can get that information. But I think it's absurd that the president is calling this meeting and really influencing his own -- the investigation of his own office.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming in, Congressman. Appreciate it.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Do not forget, you will have a chance to hear directly from the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, as we were discussing at the top of the interview. You'll hear from her yourself. A CNN special town hall with Nancy Pelosi airs on CNN at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You don't want to miss it.

Coming up for us, a massive wall of molten lava now dangerously close to a power plant in Hawaii. Officials are racing against the clock to try to prevent a catastrophe. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:38:12] BOLDUAN: So add this to the history books. For the first time in the nation's nearly 242 years, an African-American woman has clinched a major party's nomination to lead a state. Atlanta lawyer and former Georgia general assembly leader, Stacey Abrams, won the Democratic gubernatorial primary last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACEY ABRAMS, (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDASTE: I think it is an important statement that I stand here today, that I am the first African-American, the first woman. But more importantly, I'm a Georgian who understands that I want Latino and the Asian-Pacific islander community, they want every community in Georgia to feel that they have a voice in our government, that they have a voice in the future of our state.

Our campaign was grounded in the idea that if we invest in those voices, people will lift them up and they will vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But wait, there's more! The first female Marine to fly an F.A-18 in combat won the Democratic primary for a key Kentucky House seat last night. She's also a first-time candidate who beat the establishment's pick, the mayor of Lexington.

What does this all mean for November? We'll look into the crystal ball.

Here to discuss, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and Doug Heye, CNN political commentator and former spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

Let us see if you both have the same answer, which generally never happens.

Doug, first to you, what was the big headline out of last night?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there were a lot of big headlines. The first is establishment doesn't necessarily matter. And we've seen that throughout this year whether you're talking the DCCC, Democratic Congressional Committee. When they endorse candidates, it often gets overturned. Same thing happens on the Republican side. Voters are making these decisions on the grassroots level on their own. Essentially, it's a vote against Washington. So we will see how that plays in November. But I will say with your introduction, one thing I do know, you're not beating Andy Barr, in Kentucky. He won by more than 20 points last time. He's about as hard-working a member as the Republican Party has. That's my plug.

[11:40:00] BOLDUAN: So, Paul --

HEYE: That's my plug.

BOLDUAN: There's your -- I always take a plug as long as it fits into the amount of time allotted for a sound bite. Paul, what's the big headline? Do you agree with Doug?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't.

BOLDUAN: What?

BEGALA: I think there's a wave and we've been calling it a blue wave and last night it was a pink wave.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You cannot call it a pink wave. Come on.

BEGALA: This is a woman powered -- lots of guys won, too. But this, for my party, which wins the majority of women's votes and the majority votes people of color, they're now putting together collations. And I say I endorsed Stacey Abrams' opponent in that primary, so I have to eat some crow.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Stacey put together a spectacular win. She -- by the way, the turnout is the Democratic primary is the highest it's been in decades. That's an early sign. Stacey Abrams won all across that state and not just in the areas of color.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

BEGALA: She won almost all white counties, remarkably. This primary has made a believer of me the way she's put together the excitement and the enthusiasm. The midterm elections are about enthusiasm and my party is very excited with this crop of candidates they nominated yesterday across Texas, Kentucky, Georgia, Idaho. Remarkable and I'm very excited.

BOLDUAN: I can see the excitement on his face.

Doug, now the fight goes on to November. How is this -- let's call it pep talk. How is the pep talk from the leader of your party? Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But if Democrats gain power, they will try to reverse these incredible gains. These are historic gains. They will try and reverse many of them. So your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016. Although I'm not sure I really believe that, but you know.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't know who the hell wrote that line! I'm not sure.

(LAUGHTER)

But it's still important, remember. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Honestly, that now becomes my favorite sound bite from Donald Trump. My favorite line. How does that help with your get out the vote operations?

HEYE: Yes. I would use a political technical term and say not awesome.

(LAUGHTER)

This is -- look, ultimately, it's something that we'll laugh at, but it's not being laughed at in the House of Representatives during the United States Senate when Republicans are talking to each other. They need the president fully behind him. They need him in the red states where we have a lot of Democrats who are at risk who they can help drive those seats home for Republicans. But it's a real problem. Ultimately, we see so many things happening. And I agree with Paul about the rise of women candidates on the Democratic side. Stacey Abrams is a rock star. We already know that. But ultimately, it's almost like dating. It's complicated because there's a lot of enthusiasm on the Democratic side, but the economy's in a great position and voters are crediting Trump more and more about that. It means that, six months out, it's always hard to make predictions, but I think we know that there will be crosscurrents that are happening here that make it tough to make substantive predictions until we get to Election Day.

BOLDUAN: Do not bring your dating status into this segment.

HEYE: I didn't say mine. I didn't say mine.

BOLDUAN: We will go way, way, over time. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HEYE: It's not complicated. It's terrible. It's terrible.

BEGALA: I haven't had a first date since the Reagan administration.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: This was not how it was supposed to be going, Paul!

Do not try to divert attention to the fact that the Democratic national party did not back Abrams initially in the race in Kentucky.

BEGALA: Right.

BOLDUAN: I found that fascinating.

BEGALA: They went for more establishment. The mayor of Louisville was in that race.

BOLDUAN: Does that tell you what Doug is getting to, watch out, Washington. BEGLA: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Are you concerned that the big-name Democrats are out of touch with what's happening with the Democrats on the ground?

BEGALA: Sure. Big-name people are always out of touch with the grassroots. That's OK. The grassroots have more say. The midterm, as I said before, it's about enthusiasm and excitement. What you want is asymmetrical excitement, and that is to say --

BOLDUAN: What the heck is that.

BEGALA: -- my party excited and their party depressed.

BOLDUAN: OK.

HEYE: We're getting back to dating I think.

BEGALA: President Trump just gave his people, his base, for whom he could shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue and he wouldn't lose votes, he just told them, it's OK, you can stay home, because it's not as important because I'm not on the ballot. Democrats will say, yes, Trump is not on the ballot, but your Medicare is, your Medicaid is, and your health care is. That's what progressive Democrats are saying all across the country. It's very, very early. Doug's right. But if their side is depressed and my side is motivated, and believe me, both are happening right now, you can feel a big wave.

BOLDUAN: I feel like this is a therapy session. It's not the segment I was expecting, but I enjoyed it talking about your dating lives.

Great to see you. Thanks so much.

BEGALA: Thank you.

[11:44:47] BOLDUAN: Just in to CNN, for the second straight day, Scott Pruitt's EPA stopped CNN and other news outlets from getting in to cover an important event, what is billed as a public event on safe drinking water. What's going on here? We will discuss that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: For the second straight day, CNN and other news outlets have been denied access to an event with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. A CNN producer was turned away at the entrance of event this morning along with reporters from the Associated Press and a trade publication which covers energy and environmental issues.

CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, is here with much more on this.

Brian, is the EPA giving any reason for, the second day in a row, why this is happening?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Not a specific answer, but they're say thing is not the kind of open meeting they would be required to provide access to. However, some reporters wonder if this is running afoul of open- meetings laws. There are regulations in place about access not just for journalists and members of the public at events like this. This is an event about how to handle chemicals in drinking water. Kind of a big deal. And yesterday, when journalists from CNN and other outlets tried to attend, they were told they could not participate. There were empty seats in the room at the time, so that seemed odd. This is the second day in a row where journalists are being turned away. And, Kate, it's symbolic of a broader attempt to close the door on the public's access to information. We've seen fewer, shorter White House briefings. We've seen a variety of government agencies try to clamp down on access. That's not just during the Trump administration. This has been a problem for many years. But it doesn't seem to be getting bet we are the Trump administration. Like I said, this could run afoul of open-meetings laws.

Bottom line, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is the subject of nearly a dozen inquiries --

[11:50:37] BOLDUAN: That's right.

STELTER: -- by ethics watch dogs, congressional investigators and others. I think the public deserves more sunlight, not less, when it comes to him.

BOLDUAN: Especially when it comes to him.

STELTER: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brian. We'll try to get more answers.

Meanwhile, the president's also sending mixed signals on the high- stakes trade negotiations with China. In a tweet this morning, the president said this, the talks are, quote, "moving along nicely." But also says that the agreement will "likely look a little different than expected."

So what does that mean? And what does that mean as the markets watch every move and every word?

CNN's Maggie Lake is at the New York Stock Exchange this hour for us.

Maggie, what are you seeing?

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we're seeing a little bit of pressure that continued uncertainty over trade and adds to worries that emerging markets are weighing. Nothing too serious. We're off of our lows. Listen, you put tariffs, nuclear ambitions and currency crisis into headlines it's hard to put together a rally, as one trader said. But so far, we're sort of moving sideways. Investors are wondering what to do for the future.

In about an hour's time, we'll catch up with Darius Dale, from Hedgeye Risk Management, who will help us sort through these issues and figure out if we want to tweak any exposure to our portfolio, especially the international side of things. So tune in for that over on CNNmoney.com.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Great to see you, Maggie. Thanks so much.

LAKE: Thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, stunning video out of Hawaii -- it's just ridiculous -- where the Kilauea Volcano is putting on a terrifying show as officials are worried about a power plant that's being threatened by the flow of smoldering lava. We'll get the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:56:38] BOLDUAN: It's been three weeks of gushing lava and toxic air in Hawaii, and still the Kilauea Volcano show no signs of letting up. The images have been incredible and also terrifying. Today, the lava is dangerously close to a power plant.

Scott McLean is live from the big island.

Scott, what are officials saying now about the threat to this power plant?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. So we're talking about a geothermal power plant, which is not from where from this lava is encroaching. Officials say there's already been lava already starting to get onto the property. The geologists will tell you there are two separate fissures that are feeding those flows that are pushing lava onto the property. But officials have known about this as a potential hazard for quite some time. This plant has been closed since May 3rd. There was previously a whole bunch of volatile chemicals there. They have been taken off site to mitigate any damage. But now they're concerned with these geothermal wells. There are 11 of them. They managed to, as they say, quench 10 of them, which means pouring cold water down there. But they had problems with the 11th one, so they had to use a different technique to plug it. They are confident at this point that it will hold. But officials, as well as the governor last night, they were on hand to tell the community to try to allay any fears, they're saying look, even if this isn't the perfect solution, the lava is still well over a mile away from anything dangerous, Kate. So these at this point, it's not an immediate threat.

BOLDUAN: All right. Maybe that's some good news, maybe. I don't know.

Scott, thank you so much.

Scott, while I have you, if I could, what are you hearing -- you spoke with a man who was hit with a lava -- do we still call it a lava bomb, what that man was hit with overnight? What are you hearing from residents now three weeks?

MCLEAN: Sure, Kate. This is the only person to have been injured by the Kilauea Volcano. His name is Darrell Clinton. He was hit by this lava bomb over the weekend. He was trying to protect two homes that belonged to his friends. They were maybe 100 yards from these fissures. This lava bomb that hit him was the size of a bowling ball. It was strong, it knocked him off of his porch. It started a fire on his porch. His foot almost fell off, according to his ex-wife, who took him to the hospital. He was literally holding it together. He said the immense heat was like nothing he's ever felt before. The good news he is in the hospital and he is recovering. He'll be off his feet for about six weeks, but he is lucky this was not much worse.

BOLDUAN: What has it been like for you?

MCLEAN: Well, it's been -- it's sort of a strange place to be here, because a lot of these areas are evacuated. But you meet a lot of people who -- they're not going anywhere. So you wonder how safe you are getting into some of these areas where you're getting quite close to the lava. So we're trying to find places where you're a little bit maybe uphill or off to the side but getting a good view of some of this lava. I've been amazed to hear from so many people that it's going to take a lot to get them out of their houses or to get them to evacuate -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Pretty amazing.

Scott, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

A reminder, you can watch the scene live and uninterrupted any time on our Web site. Go to CNN.com.

Thank you all so much for joining me today.

INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts right now.