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Freed American Prisoner On Plane Home To U.S.; North And South Korean Leaders Hold Surprise Second Meeting; Trump Blames Dems For Kids Taken From Parents At Border; Trump's Unproven "Spygate" Claim Is His Newest Conspiracy. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 26, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: That's the American Joshua Holt and his wife, Tamara, and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. Holt and his wife have been in a Venezuelan prison for nearly two years. Right now, they are free and will land on American soil very soon. Why they were locked up and who got them released in a moment.
Also, today, this remarkable image from the Korean demilitarized zone. The leaders of North and South Korea meeting again with no fanfare beforehand. It's a time when a summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un is at best uncertain.
CNN is closely watching both of these developments. Boris Sanchez is live at the White House. Paula Hancocks is live in the South Korean capital. Let's start with Boris. The president expected to speak soon about the release of this American man from a jail in Venezuela, Joshua Holt. Boris, what is the White House saying about him?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, far the president has only said that he's looking forward to meeting Joshua Holt. He's said to arrive here at the White House at approximately 7:00 p.m. Officials have told CNN that the president has alerted aides that he wants them to prepare for an oval office statement to come around that time.
On the Venezuelan side, we received a statement from the minister of communications saying that the president of that country, Nicolas Maduro, instructed his government to give Joshua Holt and his wife a measure of benefit in their release.
What's still unclear is exactly how his communications, how these negotiations perhaps between he and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker unfolded. We learned today that Corker met with Maduro just yesterday and the release is notable because of the timing.
Just about a week ago, there was an election in Venezuela. Maduro won another six-year term. And officials, American lawmakers including Vice President Mike Pence, called that election a sham.
There was speculation and reporting about possible sanctions being imposed on Venezuela. You also have the expulsion of two American diplomats from that country. And within the last 48 hours, you had the expulsion of some Venezuelan diplomats from the United States. So, it's unclear exactly how the release of Joshua Holt came about, though, it appears to be a sign of good faith from the Venezuelan government at a time where tensions between the two countries are very high -- Ryan.
NOBLES: Boris Sanchez live at the White House. Let's now go to Paula Hancocks in Seoul. Paula, the two Korean leaders, Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un, their meeting today seemed to be a surprise for everyone. Why the secrecy, and do we know anything about what they talked about?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ryan, it really did take everybody by surprise. This is the second meeting between these two leaders in a month. It was at the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on the northern side of the DMZ this time around. It was the Southern side before. A symbolic message there.
What we know so far is fairly limited. We're being told by the Blue House that there was a frank exchange of views and clearly one of the top agendas would have been that potential meeting between President Donald Trump and the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un.
So, certainly, President Moon has been the one who has been driving this all along. He has really staked his claim and his credibility getting the Americans and the North Koreans to the negotiating table, so certainly this is a key moment for him.
He'll be having a press conference in about four hours' time. We're hoping to hear a lot more at that point about what happened, and crucially, who asked for this meeting, who pushed for it.
If it was the North Korean side, it certainly shows that they are willing to keep negotiating. If it's the South Korean side, it shows that they are trying to keep this together, so that will be the key question.
NOBLES: All right. Paula Hancocks live in Seoul, Boris Sanchez live at the White House, thanks to both of you.
Let's get straight to our panel now to discuss this, joining us, former top nuclear adviser to President Obama, Gary Samore, and CNN global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier.
Kim, let's start with you. This is a second gesture of good faith that we've recently from a country that's extremely hostile towards the United States. What do you think is driving this?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, they had left an avenue open to President Trump even as they were protesting the comments from Vice President Pence and from Bolton earlier. They very carefully didn't go all the way to the top with their critique.
I think they were possibly a bit surprised when President Trump did pull out of this, but what you see is the two sides setting the left and right of their negotiation postures. And also, the North Koreans reminding everyone that they believe that they are coming to these talks from a position of strength as a nuclear power, as they've called themselves in public statements, not as U.S. administration officials have been portraying them, desperate because of sanctions and coming to the table begging.
NOBLES: All right. Gary, let's talk about Venezuela and the release of this prisoner. How much credit should President Trump get for both this prisoner release and also those three hostages that were released recently by North Korea?
[17:05:08] GARY SAMORE, FORMER TOP NUCLEAR ADVISER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I can speak to the North Korean situation. I mean, two of these were people that were snatched by the North Koreans after President Trump took office. And it's typical behavior for the North Koreans to grab some Americans which they can later use in a gesture or give away in order to improve relations at the right time. So, I think it was a very cynical and calculating move on the part of the North Koreans in order to set the stage for what they hope will be the summit coming up.
NOBLES: So, let's talk about the summit, then, Gary. I mean, who do you think is winning in the back and forth here between the White House and North Korea?
SAMORE: So, I think both President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un really want this meeting. And I'm not at all surprised that after what looked like a temporary break, when President Trump said that he was calling off the meeting, I'm not at all surprised that it now looks like it's back on track.
I think for both men this is a historic meeting. I'm not sure the summit is going to resolve the fundamental disagreements between the U.S. and North Korea on denuclearization, but I think it will start a negotiation process which may produce some results in months or years ahead.
So, I don't see this really as one side or the other winning. I think they're both winning because they both want the meeting.
NOBLES: Kim, the president seems to insist this meet canning happen on June 12th. There was a background briefing with reporters. It was a national security adviser to the president that told reporters essentially that it was impossible to plan it that quickly. Can it happen? Can they pull this off by June 12th?
DOZIER: Yes. I was on that call, too, listening to that senior administration official saying when he was asked, can you pull this off, he's like, oh, June 12th is like in 12 minutes in terms of the kind of negotiations that have to happen.
But I think what's going to happen instead is everyone lowers their expectations of what can be accomplished at that meeting and it becomes basically all for the optics, all to just get the two men at the table. And actually, that could be useful because in North Korea only Chairman Kim can make the decision on giving up some of these things, some of these programs, so maybe they can lay out the framework and then technocrats can take it from there.
NOBLES: All right. Gary Samore, Kimberly Dozier, thank you both for your perspective. We appreciate it.
Coming up, President Trump blames Democrats for separating migrant children from their parents at the border. A Democratic Congressman is going to respond when we come back.
NOBLES: Amid the growing pushback of the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents if they cross the border illegally, the president took to Twitter this morning to blame Democrats.
Here's part of Mr. Trump's tweet, quote, "put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from their parents once they cross the border into the U.S., catch and release."
Now, you may remember earlier this month Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the Trump administration's stance clear saying, quote, "If you cross the border illegally, your child will be separated from you."
Well, after President Trump's tweet, Congressman Ted Lieu of California called out the president tweeting, quote, "Dear Real Donald Trump, your administration made the policy change to separate children from their parents. If you don't have the courage to own up to it, then reverse it. Disgraceful and weak to blame others for your own evil policy."
Congressman Ted Lieu joins us now live to talk about this. So, Congressman, tell me how you really feel about the president blaming Democrats for children being taken away from their parents at the border.
REPRESENTATIVE TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Ryan, for your question. Let me first say as a father of two children I can't imagine having them ripped away from me. And for the government to lose track of them, that's unconscionable. Donald Trump needs to reverse this policy now.
And how do we know it's his own policy? Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced it a few weeks ago. For the president to now blame Democrats is disgraceful. He could change the policy right now if he wanted to.
NOBLES: Is there a way for you and Congress to do something, though? Could you put it into a statute and force his hand on this issue? LIEU: The Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House, so Republicans could move on this if they wanted to. I'm calling on that GOP-controlled Judiciary Committee to at least hold hearings on it because we have oversight over the Department of Justice and this is a policy change made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
[17:15:03] NOBLES: All right. Let's get to some other topics of the day. Top leaders in Congress spoke with some top intelligence leaders to get the low down on the confidential source the FBI used to make contact with Trump campaign members. It was to investigate any Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Now, there were two separate classified briefings held Thursday. There was one that was designed for Republicans, the other for the Democrats. But someone dropped by both of those meetings and that was a surprise visitor, the White House lawyer, Emmitt Flood, who is tasked with representing President Trump in the special counsel investigation.
Congressman Lieu, do you think it was appropriate for the president's attorney to attend these two classified Justice Department briefings with lawmakers?
LIEU: Not at all. That was highly inappropriate. Ordinary Americans who are the subject, the target of investigations don't get to see the evidence against or the sources against them during the investigation.
So, for the president's own lawyer to show up to these meetings is highly inappropriate. And I don't even know why they had to have two separate meetings, one for Republicans, one for Democrats. They should have briefed both parties at the same time. Otherwise, what are they telling Devin Nunes that they're not telling the Democrats?
NOBLES: Should the Democrats have walked out of the meeting when they saw Emmitt Flood there?
LIEU: No. I think it's always important to stay engaged and to be present at the meetings. But let's just take a step back here. There is nothing wrong with the use of confidential informants by law enforcement or counterintelligence units. I'm a former prosecutor, the use of informants is a normal and necessary of law enforcement. It's so routine that you don't even need a warrant to use a confidential informant.
NOBLES: OK, you signed a letter this week, Congressman, that Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent to President Trump. I want to read part of it.
You wrote, "we write to advise you stop stalling, stop blaming the investigation for your political troubles and submit to an interview with Mueller, the special counsel, rather than casting wild and unfounded accusations against your own Justice Department or seeking to expose a confidential informant at great risk to his or her safety and international security. We urge you to let the Justice Department do its work while you do yours." Congressman, given the tone and attitude of this letter, do you think President Trump will take this seriously and will even read your letter?
LIEU: I do expect that the White House will read letters from the Judiciary Committee members, but look at the actions of the president, it doesn't take a prosecutor to know that those are not the actions of an innocent person.
An innocent person would not be scared of going to an interview, wouldn't be trying to obstruct the investigation at every turn. An innocent person would simply let the investigation play out because that person would not be scared of what the investigation would reveal.
NOBLES: Do you think that -- I mean, there could be some criticism of this if this is just a political move on behalf of you and your colleagues on the Judiciary Committee. I mean, if you truly wanted the president to cooperate with the special counsel, wouldn't there be a way to do it that wasn't so confrontational?
LIEU: We have tried a lot of ways do it. We've tried to have our GOP colleagues on the Judiciary Committee work with us. They won't even hold a single hearing on any of the important issues over which the Judiciary Committee has oversight, such as the Department of Justice and the FBI, so we thought this was the only choice we have.
NOBLES: What is your hope that the ultimate impact of this letter will be? Do you think there's a chance it will even change President Trump's mind even one iota, especially as it relates to having an interview or sitting down for an interview with Robert Mueller?
LIEU: I've learned not to predict how the president of the United States acts or thinks, but I do know that an innocent person would not be scared of going to an interview.
NOBLES: All right. Congressman, I want to play an exchange with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week. This was the same day that President Trump tweeted about a criminal deep state trying to sabotage his presidency. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIEU: Do you believe there is a criminal deep state at the State Department?
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I haven't seen the comments of the president. I don't believe there's a deep state at the State Department.
LIEU: That's your experience also when you interact with colleagues at the FBI and the Department of Justice as well?
POMPEO: Yes. There are always exceptions to every rule. I've never led an organization that didn't have bad actors. I don't think any government organization is exempt from having malfeasance as well.
LIEU: But in general, you're confident that the members of the various agencies are honoring their oaths to the United States constitution?
POMPEO: Yes. In general, yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Congressman, that was, of course, your line of questioning. Were you surprised by the way the secretary of state answered?
LIEU: Not at all. Mike Pompeo was a former CIA director. If he thought there was some sort of criminal deep state, he would have been talking about it and he'd be trying to root that out, but there isn't one.
The president of the United States seems to think that just because he's being investigated somehow this is a deep state. No. It's just federal employees honoring their oath to the U.S. Constitution.
[17:20:10] And let's be very clear here. Agents and prosecutors and all federal employees don't take an oath to the president. They take an oath to the United States Constitution. That's what everyone is following, and that means you investigate people and you find out if they did bad things.
NOBLES: Congressman Ted Lieu, thank you for spending part of your Memorial Day weekend with us. I certainly appreciate your time, sir.
LIEU: Thank you, Ryan.
NOBLES: All right. Coming up, Democrats and Republicans haven't agreed on much lately except that the briefing by an FBI informant doesn't seem to back up the president's campaigns that his campaign was being spied upon. So, why is Trump unable to let go of this latest conspiracy theory? We'll take a look at that next.
NOBLES: President Trump continues to claim this weekend that spies were planted in his campaign. However, he still offered absolutely no proof of this. In fact, lawmakers who attended classified intelligence briefings on the accusations say this week they saw no proof to support the president's claims either.
Those lawmakers include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He's a Republican. McConnell told NPR after the briefings he still supports the special counsel investigation and that he wasn't shown any evidence that would make him feel otherwise.
Spygate, this isn't the first time that President Trump has made a claim despite having zero proof of what he's alleging. When someone does this, when someone insists that something is true, even though facts show it is not, that's known as a falsehood or a lie, maybe a conspiracy theory. As I said, President Trump is no stranger to this. One of the first conspiracy theories that the president ever created, that President Obama, his predecessor, the first black president, was born in Africa, not the United States. He ended up having to apologize for that one.
Another conspiracy theory created by the president during his campaign that he saw thousands of residents in New Jersey celebrate on 9/11. The president insisted that he saw this on tv. However, no footage remotely close to what the president described has ever been uncovered. The list does go on.
As a candidate, Trump parroted a conspiracy theory started by the "National Enquirer" that Senator Ted Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Again, no proof this is true. We're not done.
Another conspiracy, after the election, the president began claiming that he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally. He took this claim so far that he even created a commission on voter fraud. Guess what? That commission found no proof to support the president's wild assertions.
And the president disbanded it earlier this year. We're not done with this list yet, folks. Stay with us. In November, the president suggested that a well-known MSNBC host murdered a former intern 16 years earlier despite an autopsy finding no signs of foul play.
And finally, in a claim much like this newly invented Spygate, the president accused his predecessor, President Obama, of wiretapping him. The Justice Department led by people President Trump appointed investigated these claims and found no evidence to support that.
So, amid all these conspiracies, one thing is clear -- the president, despite having access to incredible amounts of information, continues to make false, fictitious, and unsubstantiated claims. These are also commonly known as lies.
He then orders investigations into these claims which are paid for by your tax dollars. What's unclear is why, and that's a question we should all be asking.
So, let's ask that now to my next guests. Joining us two retired FBI supervisory agents, James Gagliano and Josh Campbell. Thank you for joining us. Josh, one of the reasons you left the FBI was because of attacks like this by the president. When you see something like this happening where he's accusing your former colleagues of spying on his campaign, how do you respond to that?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's interesting. Let me say at the outset I didn't retire. Jimmy retired. I'm a former FBI agent. What we see in front of us is a sideshow that has been moved into the center ring. The problem is they're trying to distract attention from the underlying investigation that's going on.
If you think about what should be important here, it is the fact that a foreign hostile intelligence service attempted to interfere in the United States election. We should all be focusing on that.
But instead what we've seen, we've seen this pattern where you're trying to discredit and distract by focusing on other things. If we look at this, quote/unquote, "Spygate," which many of us are not using that term other than to quote him, there are two issues here the first being protection of sources and methods.
This is something the FBI and the intelligence community, protecting sources and methods has long been sacrosanct. Jimmy and I have sat there trying to recruit people to come to the FBI, and to a person each time they want to know they're going to be protected, the identity will be protected from disclosure, but this is a violation of that norm.
We've seen them bulldoze that in order for political benefit. The second issue is the idea of branding. We know what this is. This is this gaslighting we've continued to see where you take something like a lawful counterintelligence investigation and the use of an informant and make it seem sinister and you call him a spy. We see it for what it is.
NOBLES: James, do you think the president really believes this conspiracy theories or is this just a marketing ploy?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I do believe the president believes them but let me just quote Mark Twain here real quick. So, Mark Twain says, "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and supporting your government when it deserves it." We have an instance here during the 2016 campaign both campaigns were notified that Russians were attempting to sow discord and meddle in our elections, both campaigns. The DNC elected not to give up their server to let us take a look at it. And the Trump campaign essentially had an informant. We use the term -- I think James Comey used it the other day -- confidential human source.
And I want to break that down. In years of working under cover, there were a number of things, targets that were exceedingly difficult to run up against -- politicians or public servants, clergy, and the press. They require getting levels of approvals high up in the Department of Justice. And in this instance, in the Trump campaign, it had to go to the White House and to the attorney general.
Now, here's what we have. There was not a spy. I'll say this to the president. There was not a spy. A spy is someone who is attempting to steal state secrets and cause chaos inside of an entity or organization or enterprise. I'm going to argue with Josh and say this wasn't an informant. And 99 percent of the informants we use are people inside an enterprise that we talk to that provide information about criminal activity.
This was an agent provocateur. I won't say his name, even though it's in the public realm, because I think it's inappropriate to do so. This was an agent provocateur. That's a French term which means an insider, somebody that is sent to run up again, whether it's Carter Page or George Papadopoulos, and in those instances, try to get them to talk about things and try to maybe suggest things. In the criminal realm, we call that entrapment. I'm not suggesting that here. I'm suggesting what happened in the FBI and the Department of Justice might have been what we call confirmation bias, meaning we get new information that comes in and in our mind that confirms the theories we already had. We interpret the data that comes in, in a circular logic, to confirm that. And that might have been what happened here.
Good people are doing the investigations, but the decisions up top to do this to a presidential campaign, not both campaigns, when both were targeted by the Russians, but one campaign, definitely suspect.
GAGLIANO: I would say, with respect, that there's simply no way we know that's true because --
CAMPBELL: My opinion. Right.
GAGLIANO: But if you think about how informants are worked, the allegation has been, and this is the most serious issue, I think, is not that an informant, a confidential source, a spy, whatever you want to call him, was used, but the president and his folks are saying --
CAMPBELL: It was inappropriate.
GAGLIANO: -- it was used for political purposes, which is a serious allegation.
CAMPBELL: That's right.
GAGLIANO: And it's an allegation on which there are no facts to base that. That's a serious issue.
Another problem is, for those who have worked with informants, we know informants are run by the ground-level agents who recruit them. In the FBI, supervisors can't run informants. It has to be those G.S.-13 and below agents --
CAMPBELL: I would assume that moves up to the president of the United States. It's not as if President Obama --
CAMPBELL: Let me just say that, with that said, it would be a line agent running them. It is inconceivable that if there was someone at the director or deputy director level trying to infiltrate for political purposes that they would then convince a line-level agent to inappropriately use an informant.
GAGLIANO: I agree with Josh there. I'll give you the circular logic, the confirmation bias. You have a confidential human source, who I would term an agent provocateur, that is then butted up against Christopher Steele and the dossier. The confidential source is sent there at the direction of the FBI. Steele, the dossier, the dossier comes back to the FBI, bingo. There's your circle there. It wasn't that there was information inside the campaign that was coming out suggesting that there were people that were colluding with the Russians. It was us running somebody there. I've seen this --
CAMPBELL: We don't know that.
GAGLIANO: We don't know that?
CAMPBELL: We don't.
GAGLIANO: We certainly do, because there's a chronology that you can follow. In fact --
CAMPBELL: You're telling me you know that this counterintelligence investigation that you know for a fact this person was actively corrupting --
GAGLIANO: Chuck Ross wrote a story for the "Daily Column," which the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post" have since reported on. It says the exact same thing.
NOBLES: We're getting a little too far into the weeds on this, guys.
I guess the big problem here -- and I think these issues will be hashed out that you guys are talking about -- is that what the president is suggesting is that this is beyond what you're suggesting, the circular logic of the whole thing, that this was done with direct intent, that there was a political motivation behind this.
Can we have confidence that this inspector general investigation -- it's not as if this is in a vacuum somewhere and no one is looking into this. Can we have the confidence that the inspector general investigation will root this out and we'll get these answers?
GAGLIANO: Absolutely. Absolutely. Just like with the Trump/Russia -- the Robert Mueller investigation. I believe it needs to run its course. The inspector general report that's going to come out, I believe it needs to run its course. That's where we'll learn these lessons. Yes, we're trying to read judicial tea leaves. And I agree with Josh on that. But those things need to continue to operate unimpeded.
CAMPBELL: And this has to be the focus, too. If you look at the I.G. report, what we've seen is the president and his folks make an allegation without any basis in fact and, of course, it has to be looked in into because, at the end of the day, it's about public opinion and confidence in law enforcement. I'm just saying that's a dangerous place to be if every time a politician makes an accusation we send investigators out to determine -- (CROSSTALK)
[17:35:02] NOBLES: Josh, Jim, thank you very much.
NOBLES: We appreciate it.
Still to come, you'll hear how former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, is responding to the president's baseless accusations that there was a spy in his campaign.
And two White House lawyers present at a classified briefing for lawmakers.
But first, in this week's "Fit Nation," we head into the backwoods of Tennessee where people compete in what many consider to be the toughest race in the world.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Every year in the backwoods of Tennessee, there's a race so tough, only 15 people have ever finished it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a bit of a problem. I really don't know where I'm supposed to be going next.
GUPTA: Welcome to the Barclay Marathons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greatest challenges in sports really are pressure and uncertainty. The Barclay weekend is filled with pressure and uncertainty.
GUPTA: Just 40 select athletes are chosen to try to complete five 20- mile loops of steep, unmarked terrain using nothing but a map and a compass.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A race where you're just kind of running around in the forest not knowing if you're on the right trail or not. It adds a whole other mental element.
GUPTA: Runners have 12 hours to complete each loop and find 13 hidden books along the way to prove they stayed on course.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kind of incredible physical beating that these people take and go out there 12, 14, 16 hours. You're wet, you're cold, you're hungry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is fogged in and freezing up here.
GUPTA: Even for the most accomplished ultra-runners, the course can seem impossible, leaving just one option.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have made the decision to self-extract. I've got to get myself out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be great if everyone could get that prize, but the nature of the prize is that you can't. I'm glad that you can't. Another time, you get to make a new mistake.
GUPTA: This year, Mother Nature rained down on the course, creating havoc for runners. Many missed the time cutoff, earning them the Barclays signature send-off.
GUPTA: This year's best runner finished only three loops. Once again, the Barclay won.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People will come back alive, maybe hurt in their soul, but physically with things that they'll recover from.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was just glorious suffering.
[17:42:31] NOBLES: Former acting attorney general Sally Yates is condemning President Trump's demand for the Justice Department to investigate what he has dubbed as Spygate. Again, Spygate is the president's own conspiracy theory that the FBI placed a spy inside his campaign. There's absolutely zero evidence that happened.
And tonight, on an all-new "Ax Files," Yates weighs in on the baseless accusation. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOST, "THE AX FILES": How do you react to that implication that spies were sent in at the direction of the Obama administration?
SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes, well, you're right, it's under investigation now. And I think I have to leave it to this Department of Justice and FBI to make decisions about what information they're going to publicly release. So I can't really comment on that specific allegation.
AXELROD: Not specifics --
AXELROD: -- but what about the general sense that this was a politically inspired investigation?
YATES: Again, I'm not going to speak to this specific one. But I will say this. I was with DOJ for 27 years, and I can tell you that the men and women of the Department of Justice take the responsibility very seriously. Investigations there are done based on the facts and the law and not based on politics. And I'm confident that that will be the result of this investigation as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: CNN's Ana Cabrera recently sat down with David Axelrod to learn more about tonight's interview.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: David, Yates seemed very diplomatic in her answer about these accusations of spying. What was your take-away?
AXELROD: Well, first of all, I would say she was very lawyerly. She feels very strongly about the rule of law and legal norms and democratic norms, so she is very careful not to get too out in front of her skis.
But as the conversation ensued, it was very, very clear that she believed what the president had done was an outrageous infringement of the rule of law. She said no president should use the law as a sword to go after his enemies or a shield to protect himself. And she felt that it was inappropriate for him to ask the Justice Department to essentially probe the probe in the middle of this investigation.
And she also -- you know, what was interesting about the interview, Ana, was that she knows all these people. As she mentioned, 27 years in the Justice Department. She knows Rosenstein. She knows Chris Wray. She knows Robert Mueller. And her insights into these players was very, very interesting. She has great confidence in them. She completely rejects the notion that this is inspired as -- that this was a partisan-inspired investigation. And she was, you know, very, very clear that she thinks Rosenstein -- that the president might be trying to force some sort of confrontation to remove Rosenstein from that position.
[17:45:27] CABRERA: But it did seem like she was hesitant to fully say or speak her mind, and yet what you just said is she is passionate about the Department of Justice, the players who are there, and feels like they are there for a reason or doing a job that she believes is righteous. So why do you think she was so hesitant to criticize how this administration has handled some of their duties?
AXELROD: Well, it was interesting. She absolutely believes that she should not, in the midst of the investigation, be commenting on details of it because she was a deputy attorney general at the time that this investigation began so she could actually be a witness to some of the events. We know she went and told the White House about Mike Flynn's lie to the vice president because the government knew what he had said to the Russian ambassador back at the beginning of the administration. So she is involved in this case, and that has caused her to be somewhat hesitant.
She also said, interestingly, about Jim Comey's book and Comey's sort of flamboyant intrusion into this whole discussion in recent weeks, that that was something she would not have done, that that wasn't -- that she didn't think -- she wouldn't have felt comfortable, you know, doing what he did. So this speaks to her reticence about this.
But in between the lines, it is very, very clear what she thinks about what the White House has done here. And it's very clear that she's concerned about the long-term impact on the Department of Justice and the FBI.
CABRERA: Just this week, we saw President Trump's attorney in the Russia investigation, Emmet Flood, attend at least the beginning of two separate classified intelligence briefings involving the investigation into Russia's involvement with the president's campaign or potential involvement. A number of lawmakers reportedly saw Flood's appearance there as inappropriate. At least a Republican staffer told CNN, quote, "It's the craziest bleep I have ever heard."
Do you think, David, Flood should have been at these meetings?
AXELROD: No. I think this was an effort to try and send a message to Wray, to Rosenstein, that the White House is going to use its weight to compel them to turn over to Congress the things that Congress wants. And it was inappropriate. And obviously, the issues at hand here affect the president. He is part of this probe. And for his lawyer to be there and have -- potentially even be in a room where evidence is being discussed at this stage in the investigation is inappropriate. So, you know, I suspect Rudy Giuliani said the president wanted him there. The president may have called the shot. But, from the standpoint of what is appropriate, it was a big mistake.
CABRERA: This week, we also learned Jared Kushner's security clearance was restored. Do you think that means intelligence agencies believe he is not a security risk?
AXELROD: Hard to say, Ana, because I don't know what the special counsel has communicated about his investigation. Bob Mueller is an unusual character in that whole operation in Washington in that it's kind of a leak-free environment, and clearly, he doesn't want others leaking either. So I don't know what he told the reviewing authorities about Jared Kushner. I mean, obviously, it's a good thing for Kushner to get past that hurdle. I'm not sure that it is a complete clean bill of health for him as it relates to the probe.
CABRERA: David Axelrod, always good to talk with you. Thank you so much.
AXELROD: Great to see you, Ana.
[17:49:20] NOBLES: You'll be able to watch the full David Axelrod interview with Sally Yates in just over an hour. It starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Coming up, it is Memorial Day weekend, and that's the start of summer for many. But if you're headed to the beach along the gulf coast this weekend, you might want to think again. We'll have the latest on the updated track of Sub-Tropical Storm Alberto.
NOBLES: Several states are under a state of emergency with Sub- Tropical Storm Alberto churning towards parts of the gulf coast.
Meteorologist Gene Norman joins me now with the latest.
Gene, what does it look like?
GENE NORMAN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Ryan, there are three quick things you need to know. One, the warnings have expanded. Two, the storm continues to move to the north. Three, it will likely make landfall on Monday. The latest on the storm, it's just off the tip of Cuba, expected to get into the gulf, strengthen, because it's only 40-mile- an-hour winds now. It could get up to 65-mile-an-hour winds before that landfall, somewhere perhaps somewhere between Mobile and Panama City. And they're under a tropical storm warning. The conditions are going to get worse through the weekend.
[17:54:53] NOBLES: All right. Gene, thank you for that update. We appreciate it.
We will be right back.
NOBLES: Many families around the country will be grilling this Memorial Day weekend, but this week's "CNN Hero," Stan Hayes, uses his barbecue year-round to cook meals for our nation's heroes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STAN HAYES, CNN HERO: We're here with the Gary Sinise Foundation at the Invisible Spirit Festival.
How are you guys doing? You want a pulled pork sandwich?
We're cooking for 6500 to 7000 people.
Being here where these men and women have given so much while protecting and serving our country, it's pretty special.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an awesome event. The barbecue is stellar.
HAYES: Barbecue is really about bringing people together. For us, this is the biggest thank-you we can give those men and women that have served.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:00:02] NOBLES: To learn more about stan's nonprofit, head to CNNheros.com. While you're there, nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero."
I'm Ryan Nobles, in New York. I'll see you in two hours.