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Trump Wishes He Had Picked Another Attorney General; Stormy's Lawyer Asks for Release of Cohen Recordings; Dead Putin Critic Shows Up Alive After Assassin Sting. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired May 30, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] DEAN OBEIDALLAH, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR, CNN.COM: In America we should all have points of view in the entertainment world represented. That's the way it should be.
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And I do think the litany of names that Sarah went down in the briefing, I think there is some media bias. There is some form of hypocrisy. And I think some of the people she missed, Joy Behar, has said some horrible things. Keith Olbermann has said some horrible things, and others at ABC has given a platform, Kathy Griffin. But they all paid a price, at least -- except for Joy Behar. But I think the point is this isn't a time to play what about-ism. This is a time to talk about what is were talking about right now and that is racist comments that should not be tolerated. And we need to change the tone. We cannot normalize this kind of conversation.
OBEIDALLAH: You can't bolden by the President. Absolutely not. And I think there are people out there who think they can get away with what Trump said from demonizing a disabled person, to horrible stuff about Muslims, to Latinos, to Judge Curiel. Saying that he shouldn't on his case because of his Mexican heritage, is Latino and he's born in America. There are people out there thinking you can say this stuff. You can't. I had Anthony Scaramucci on my radio show about a month ago and he told me honestly how he got fired. And John Kelly said to him, well, you said these curse words to a reporter. And he said what about -- he actually said what about President Trump with the comments on the "Access Hollywood" tape. And John Kelly said, you're not the President. And I think there are people out there who think if Trump says it, I can say it. You're going to lose your job. I'm telling you, as a lawyer, you're going to lose your job.
BALDWIN: You can't say it.
OBEIDALLAH: You can't do it.
BALDWIN: You can't say it. Dean and Alice, thank you so much on that.
Coming up next, President Trump says he wishes he had chosen a different attorney general, this as we learn about new details of the President's attempts to get Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation. Plus, a top House Republican debunks the President's theory about the notion there was a spy planted in his campaign. Moments ago, the White House press secretary refused to back down from that claim. We're back in a moment.
[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: We're back, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Developing details in the case of the porn star suing the President and his personal attorney Michael Cohen. Stormy Daniels lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has chosen to pull his participation in the federal criminal case of Cohen. This exit comes after a judge warned Avenatti he would have to, quote, stop your publicity tour. But Avenatti did not go quietly after today's court hearing. He stood in front of reporters and a lot of microphones and called for release of audio recordings seized during those raids on Collins properties. Avenatti calls them the "Trump tapes." But let's be clear, there is no indication Trump is on any of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Mr. Cohen and his attorney, Mr. Ryan, should release all of those audio recordings to the American people and to Congress. So, that they can be heard by all and people can make their own determinations as to their importance relating to the President and what he knew and when he knew it and what he did as a relates to conspiring with Michael Cohen to commit one or more potential crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let start there. Nelson Cunningham is back with us. He is a former White House General Counsel for President Clinton and a former federal prosecutor. Nelson, welcome back.
NELSON CUNNINGHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE GENERAL COUNSEL, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: It's a pleasure to be here.
BALDWIN: All right, so you heard what Avenatti said. He said there's this audio recording that exists between Cohen and Stormy Daniels first attorney who organize the whole hush payment. This is this guy Keith Davidson. Avenatti maintained that it was privileged information. Assuming Avenatti is telling the truth, what could be on these tapes and do you think they'll ever be made public?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, for one thing it's one clear what Avenatti's source of information is. It's unclear what he knows. Remember, he asked to be part of the team that could go through the Cohen documents and the judge declined to make him part of that team. And today he withdrew because he wasn't going to get his way. So, it's unclear what he actually knows or whether he's just heard rumors and he's using it to spin up a tale.
But if there were tapes there between Stormy Daniels' former lawyer and Michael Cohen, there would not be a claim of privilege that I can see there. And it would certainly be something that could be turned over to the prosecutors who are investigating the case. Mr. Avenatti might try to get it in civil discovery because he thinks it might help his case. Whether there's a great public interest in it, hard to know. BALDWIN: OK. Let me ask you, Nelson, about this. About how the
President took to Twitter today saying very publicly that he wishes he had not chosen Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. In addition, it's "The New York Times" reporting in March of 2017 the President had gone to Sessions and asked him to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation. As we now know, Sessions refused to do that, Trump asking him to un-recuse himself. Also, part of Mueller's bigger obstruction investigation, that's broader than the firing of James Comey, what does that signal to you?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, the President keeps on failing to understand that lawyers and especially prosecutors and those in law enforcement live by principles. There are rules of the game. You play by the rules of game. There are consequences if you do not. Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself was not based on waking up one morning and decided he wanted to do it. It was because he realized he was a potential witness in the case. He might even be a subject of an investigation because of the role that he had played on Donald Trump's campaign. And because of the statements he had made in accurately denying that he had conversations with the Russians. Sessions can undo those facts. Those facts were what caused him to recuse himself. And frankly, I think most reasonable lawyers would agree. He made the right decision.
[15:40:00] The President keeps on failing to understand that you can't just ask a lawyer and a law enforcement official forget the principles that make you who you are.
BALDWIN: The point also though that I made a second ago is that Trump tweeted today that he wished he hadn't chosen Sessions, who is still his current Attorney General. Have you ever seen anything like that, Nelson, from a sitting President?
CUNNINGHAM: It's as extraordinary as anything I've seen. I became a prosecutor 30 years ago last month and I can't recall anything like this before.
BALDWIN: Nelson Cunningham, thank you very much.
CUNNINGHAM: My pleasure.
BALDWIN: Any moment now we will see President Trump. Here he is live at the White House for this sports and fitness day. We have new details about what the President is doing to improve his own health.
BALDWIN: Right now, at the White House President Trump is speaking and promoting the benefits of physical fitness and youth sports. The President is not exactly the exercise type, but this event comes amid news that he has changed his diet. You remember the result of Trump's physical, he was borderline obese and just ate too much fast food. Now CNN has learned that he has ditched steak for fish and is trying to lose 10 to 15 pounds. So, Kaitlin Collins is our CNN White House reporter. And Dr. Jennifer Caudle is a family physician and associate professor at the Rowan University school of osteopathic medicine. Ladies, thank you for being on. And Kaitlin, let's start with the changes. So, the President wants to lose a couple lbs. What else?
KAITLIN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He does, Brooke. The President here highlighting health and fitness today. There are being questioned raised about his own health and fitness. And as you recall, back in January the President's doctor came out and briefed reporters in the briefing room at the White House. He had just conducted a medical evaluation on the President, and he said that he was in good health for someone his age, someone who is coming up on 72. But he did know that the President had set a weight loss goal of losing 10 to 15 pounds through diet and exercise.
Now we know since January during their briefing the president has altered his diet some. And instead of those well-done steaks that he likes slathered in ketchup, he has swapped them out for the Dover sole typically when he dines here at the White House. This is a President who typically stays here at the White House and rarely ventures out to go to dinner. And when he does he does go to the Trump Hotel.
He also has changed his diet for hamburgers. The president is someone who enjoys a cheeseburger. He now is eating those without the top bun. In addition to that, the White House chefs here have been instructed to keep that in mind as they're creating dishes for the President, the calorie intake, the fat intake, to change those as well. Now as far as exercise, though, we have not been able to detect a change in the President's workout routine. This is actually a President who has famously downplayed exercise at times saying he believes it poses more of a risk than it does a reward. Of course, that does come in addition to him playing golf regularly, something he does with a golf cart.
But it is interesting that the President is here highlighting health and fitness at quite a remarkable event. There are kids in football outfits, soccer nets, the Press Secretary was throwing around a few footfalls earlier. So, the President here highlighting health and fitness, Brooke, while there are questions about his own.
BALDWIN: OK. So, listen, I applaud the President for trying to be healthier. We all could use a probably good dose of that. But Dr. Caudle to you. You know, when I hear Kaitlin that say he's taking the top bun off his cheeseburger, and to me that sounds like, alright I'm eating the triple chocolate cake, but I'm not eating like that top layer of icing. I mean, exchanging the red meat for the Dover sole. Assess all of that for me.
DR. JENNIFER CAUDLE, FAMILY PHYSICIAN: Well, this is what I'll say about that in particular. I'm a family physician and I see patients all the time. So many of us are trying to lose weight and become healthier. And I really do believe small changes do make a difference. But I have to say overall, you know, quite honestly, we do need to be promoting the importance of exercise and good diet, and kids need this too. So, I'm happy to see this initiative. I happy to see that we have a counsel and that were really sort of promoting this idea of good nutrition and getting out and being active because that's really something we need.
BALDWIN: How do get when -- you talk about being active and we know that the President's form of exercise is golf, as Kaitlin was just reporting. But then, you know, it's not like he's walking from hole to hole, he's in a golf cart. How do you trick Trump or someone listening and needing a little more of a jolt in their lives, how do you trick them into exercise?
CAUDLE: Well, so, unfortunately, I don't know how many tricks there are in terms of exercise. I think the most important thing is just to do it and to get out and do it. But I have to say, I'll be honest with you here, this is really for everyone out here who's listening, who's struggling with their weight or trying to be healthier, it sometimes can be difficult. And that's why I do say the small changes really do matter. So even walking further from your car to the grocery store or taking the steps instead of the elevator, those small changes do make a difference.
You know, but we know that exercise is so important. Because obesity is a major problem in this country and throughout the world. And it's a risk factor for things like diabetes, and hypertension and high cholesterol. But not only that, I think one of the good things about this is that we're talking about sports and fitness. And as President Trump did say, yes, kids and young people and even older people get a lot of social skills and a lot of school development, leadership, et cetera, from being involved in sports. So, I'm going to be encouraging because I know a lot of people out there are trying to do better, small changes matter.
BALDWIN: I love it. Glass half full. Dr. Caudle, thank you very much. And Kaitlin, I've just got one more for you. Over at the White House because I know, people have now been counting how many days the public hasn't seen Melania Trump.
[15:50:00] We're now up to 20 days. And I know she's been recovering from a procedure. She just tweeted. What did she say?
COLLINS: This is interesting, Brooke. We often don't get an unscripted tweet like this from the first lady. But there's been a lot of speculation about where she's been since she had undergone that medical procedure at Walter Reed a few weeks ago. And she hasn't been seen publicly in 20 days I should note.
And she just tweeted, quote, I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am and what I'm doing. She said rest assures, I'm here at the White House with my family feeling great and working hard on behalf of children and the American people.
So, an update straight from the first lady herself. Though she has not been seen in public. She's not at this event so far here on the south lawn of the White House, this sports and fitness event. And she also was not with the President when he traveled to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day to lay a wreath at the ceremony there and to greet service members who were there. Which is quite notable. Those are typically events a first lady would attend. So that is why there was so much speculation about where she could be. But there the first lady giving us an update saying that things are going fine and clearly, she says that we can expect to see her publicly soon -- Brooke. Kaitlyn, thank you, at the White House event. Coming up next, a
journalist in Ukraine disappears. Everyone thinks he's been killed by the Russian government. It was reported as such. And today he turns up alive. He says he faked his own death so escape a Russian plot to kill him. We are live in Moscow with the details of this unbelievable story.
[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: The next story is definitely of the more bizarre that we covered here at CNN. This prominent Russian journalist shot and killed in Kiev. Found in a pool of blood. His friends, his family, even wife thought he was dead. But today a shocking turn of events.
Well, well, Arkady Babchenko turning up alive on Ukrainian television. Let's go straight to senior international correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen. And Fred, it turns out this guy faked his death to take down a team of Russian assassins. Can you please connect the dots for me?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's what he says. I can tell you, Brooke, it was one of the crazier days I've witnessed here, in Moscow and generally here in this region. It seems as this was all staged by the Ukrainian Intelligence Service together with the journalists, Arkady Babchenko. Now, he and they say that they uncovered a plot to kill him which they claim was directed by the Russians. The Ukrainians are saying that money had already been paid. They say that the only way that they found to stop this plot and apprehend those behind it was to stage this man's death.
And Brooke, this really seemed to involve not just the intelligence service but pretty much everybody in the Ukrainian government as well. In fact, even the Prime Minister of Ukraine went to Facebook after it was falsely announced that this man was dead and blamed the Russians for it. He lashed out at the Russians for. The Russians obviously shot back and said it wasn't them. And then Mr. Babchenko came out and said that, yes, he was still alive, and all this has been staged. And even apologized to his wife for not filling her in. Let's listen in to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARKADY BABCHENKO, "MURDERED" RUSSIAN JOURNALIST (through translator): Firstly, I would like to apologize for what you've all had to go through. Because I've buried friends and colleagues many times. And I know it's a sickening, vomiting feeling when you have to bury your colleagues. Your sorry that they force you to experience all of this. But in another way, it was impossible. Also, I would like to apologize to my wife for the hell she has been through in these last two days. Olechka, I'm sorry, but there were no other options.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: You wonder when his wife is going to next speak to him or how long that's going to take. However, the Ukrainians are celebrating, Brooke. They say it was a very successful operation. As you can imagine, though, the Russians are absolutely fuming. I have one thing that a Russian lawmaker said. He said it was a provocation against Russia and disgraced Ukraine in the eyes out world. It seems as though the Ukrainian government doesn't care that much. Again, the President of Ukraine saying this was a brilliant operation -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: I don't know how long I would have to wait to talk to my husband again if he pulled something like that. Quickly Fred, any [16:00:00] updates on the suspects?
PLEITGEN: Well, so far, we know there's two people in custody. That's what the Ukrainians are saying. It appears as though, from what they're saying, that one of them seemed to be the person who provided the cash and the other person might be the one who was supposed to be the would-be assassin. It was interesting. Because one of the senior members of the Ukrainians Intelligence Service came out and said that one of the suspects at least was only arrested a couple of hours before Babchenko came out and said he was actually alive. Again, the Ukrainians are saying that they believe this was an absolutely successful operation. But unclear when they're actually going to present the suspect and give more details as to who sort of people they actually apprehended -- Brooke.
Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much. What a story in Moscow there.
Just in, Kim Jong-un's former top spy, the suspected mastermind of that infamous hack on Sony, has just arrived in the U.S. We've just gotten these pictures in from New York. We're told Kim Yong-chol has left JFK airport in New York. He's getting ready to meet with U.S. officials including the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on this potential nuclear summit. We heard Sarah Sanders mention that Pompeo was having lunch with the President today and then is heads to New York to meet with this man and discuss the potential for that North Korean Summit that would happen in the host country of Singapore on June 12th. That would be less than two weeks away I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Thank you so very much for being with me. We'll go to Washington. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.