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Trump NATO Meeting; U.K. Voices Frustration on Leaks; Montana Candidate Charged with Assault; Sessions Didn't Disclose Russia Meetings; House Subpoenas Flynn. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 25, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: There you have it.

Here to discuss, Michael Williams, former adviser and consultant to NATO, also a professor of international relations here at NYU, and General Wesley Clark, former NATO ally supreme commander. He's now a senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations.

Nice to have you both.

And, general, let me begin with you. The president has used a lot of words. And let's just take him at his last phrase, which is, NATO was obsolete. It no longer is. He has not definitively said whether the United States will continue to stand behind its commitment to Article Five, and that's really important, unless, he said previously, the other countries pay up enough. What should he say today?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I think he has to express his unconditional support for Article Five and his complete support for NATO and these countries. There will be discussion of burden sharing, and that's appropriate. There will be discussion of terrorism. And I think the NATO allies will go out of their way to make President Trump feel like he's - his ideas are listened to. But he's got to express unconditional support for Article Five. That's the heart of NATO. It's the strongest pledge one nation can give to another. And all of these allies are going to be looking for President Trump to do that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just to be clear, Article Five, so our audience knows, is collective defense. If one nation is attacked, then the rest of the NATO nations agree to jump in and -

HARLOW: And it's only been used once for us.

BERMAN: Only once after September 11th there. I don't think the president ever fully said, you know, Article Five, he wasn't supportive of it. He did suggest if they didn't pay their money, he wouldn't be a much.

Listen, professor, the other countries there, what do they want to hear from the president?

MICHAEL WILLIAMS, PROFESSOR, NYU: Well, they certainly want reassurances about the U.S. commitment to NATO and they want U.S. leadership. NATO requires U.S. leadership. The European countries will get behind the United States, but alone, amongst themselves, they're sort of in a bit of malaise at the moment. So they want to hear robust talk on Russia. They want to hear robust talk on intelligence sharing and the security of intelligence, and they'll want to have a plan going forward for counter intelligence operations, which is something that the secretary-general has highlighted with the new intelligence unit that they opened at the headquarters in Brussels.

HARLOW: But of the - general, of the 28 member countries of NATO that actually meet - of the 28 members, only five have actually met that 2 percent of total GOP threshold in terms of their contribution. I mean I've heard some Republicans say this was a risky bet that the president made using language like this, but it's working. And more and more are committing to paying more into NATO, granted some of that started before the president. But, I mean, is this a risky bet that he seems to have come out on the right side of?

CLARK: Well, I think it's always a good thing for the United States to emphasize the importance of its allies to pay more. Historically, we've done this since the founding of NATO in the 1950s. We've always said that our allies didn't quite pay enough. However, this 2 percent commitment goes back to 2008. It's a long, old commitment. Most of the nations show a way of getting there by 2024. And it's a function of budget planning in these nations. It's also the 2 percent of GDP committed to defense is not really an accurate representation of what a nation's committing to NATO. You need some qualitative measures in there and you have to have some non-quantitative measures, like procedures, participation and exercises and other things to really round out what this means. So we're looking for a new measurement. At the same time, we're encouraging nations to spend more on their defense.

BERMAN: Yes, and most of the nations did, by the way, increase their spending over the last year, so spending is going up.

All right, we have this sort of new controversy. Great Britain seems to be very upset that there have been leaks from U.S. intelligence on the investigation into the Manchester terror attack. The U.K. even suspending intelligence sharing over the investigation. Specifically, do you have a sense of what they're really upset about here? What's going on?

WILLIAMS: Well, the U.K. is trying to root out the terrorist network in Manchester and go as far and deep as possible. And so they don't want information that they share with the United States or other five IS (ph) countries, which is the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, to go behind those agencies because then the people they're tracking will know what they know and they'll be able to better allude the U.K. authorities. So MI-5, the domestic intelligence service, MI-6, the international intelligence service, are working to try and get as deep as they can through the networks to pull it out. It's a little different than the Americans do. We tend to strike and take them out as we find the information, but the British want to get deep, deep down. And if the information's coming out, crime scene photos and leaks about what they know, it's going to make it much harder for them to do their job because they want to keep the enemy off balance.

HARLOW: So, General Clark, we know that British Prime Minister Theresa May is going to bring this up when she speaks with President Trump today. She said that as she heads to this NATO summit she will make it clear to President Trump that intelligence shared between agencies must remain secure. Is the U.K. correct to be this upset, to be as upset about this as to suspend the intelligence sharing agreement temporarily?

CLARK: Well, I think they are. And U.K. intelligent has been - it's very proper. It's very effective. We've had a long-standing relationship with the U.K. intelligence dating back to World War II. And it's our most important intelligence partner. So we've got to maintain this relationship. If Prime Minister May brings it up, I think it's constructive. I think President Trump has to answer it by talking about the commitments that America makes to sharing intelligence with Britain.

[09:35:29] BERMAN: All right, General Wesley Clark, Michael Williams, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate your time.

A really tight congressional race and now an unprecedented election eve. A candidate punches a reporter, which is not something they teach you to do in candidate training. Much more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right, the polls this morning are open in Montana. Voices are making a choice. A choice that may have become much more clear overnight after a really stunning incident. Look, this less than 24 hours after their, well, 24 hours after their Republican choice, this man, Greg Gianforte, charged with an misdemeanor assault for allegedly body slamming a reporter. A reporter who just went up to him and asked him a question about the news that was just breaking.

[09:40:16] BERMAN: All right, CNN's Sara Murray learned just moments ago that House Speaker Paul Ryan will likely address this incident when he holds his press conference. That comes up pretty shortly.

Joining us now, Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for Real Clear Politics, Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator and senior columnist at "The Daily Beast."

Paul Ryan is going to go to that microphone. They're going to say, hey, what do you make of this Republican candidate who just body slammed a reporter after asking a question. Paul Ryan says?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Paul Ryan will condemn it. You know, I think he will do the right thing and show some moral clarity here.

Frankly, I thought that he should refuse to seat him, but I don't think that's possible. The last time the Senate tried to do this with Roland Burris when Rod Blagojevich appointed him to a seat, they ended up having to seat him. It turns out the Constitution tells Congress that they - that they can determine the qualifications of members, but according to the Supreme Court at least, those qualifications have to do with things like age or legal requirements. So there's no moral way to say that this guy doesn't have the right temperament to keep him out. They're going to have to seat him if he wins and I think you'd have to say he's probably still on pace to be the favorite despite the fact that he slam dunked a reporter.

HARLOW: The fact that seven out of 10 voters it's expected already voted early in Montana plays a part - plays -

LEWIS: Another argument against early voting.

HARLOW: I know - plays a part in it. And in Montana you can't reverse - you can't reverse your early vote.

Caitlin, do you think - we just had the editor on from "The Billings Gazette," who in their op-ed pulling their endorsement, calling more Republicans to do something, say something. But so far kind of radio silence.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Exactly. And that's what's really fascinating. You haven't heard from the local Republican Party, you haven't heard from national Democrats. Yes, Paul Ryan could give this statement representing the Republican Party. But also to be clear, the question that the reporter was asking about was the CBO score.

HARLOW: The news.

HUEY-BURNS: The news. And that's particularly interesting in this race because Gianforte had, on a donor call, reportedly said that the health care bill was the process was good. Then in interviews later said, wait a second, I wouldn't have voted for it. I wanted to wait to see what the CBO score was. So that response to that simple, direct question is what's really startling here.

BERMAN: Yes, look, I mean it was a pertinent question. Even if it wasn't a pertinent question -

HUEY-BURNS: Well, of course.

BERMAN: Probably not a good idea to body slam the reporter.

HUEY-BURNS: Of course. But when the Republican Party is, today, going to be responding to health care questions.

BERMAN: Yes.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Well, look, I mean, he can condemn it, Matt Lewis, but he can condemn it with saying don't vote for Greg Gianforte also -

LEWIS: Right.

BERMAN: Which would be sort of the Paul Ryan method of condemning things based on what we've seen before. LEWIS: Yes.

BERMAN: There is this notion out there, people are wondering, look, did this attack happen. I say attack. Did this alleged assault happen because of an environment out there where reporters have been sort of, you know, under attack. Listen to what the president - some of the president's supporters said over the last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up yours. Traitor. You pack your bags and get out of here!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So are we now in an environment, Matt Lewis, where it's OK to go after reporters? Is it fair to say this is a Trump thing or was this just really the case of a candidate in Montana who did something really, really stupid?

LEWIS: I mean it's obviously impossible to say. But I think it's pretty clear that Donald Trump has contributed to what I would call a hostile work environment if you're a reporter. There was a story last year during the election where an NBC News reporter had to be escorted to her car by the police.

HARLOW: Yes.

LEWIS: So, look, my fear was - I actually wrote about this at "Roll Call." My fear was that there might be some person out there, like an unstable person or - who - who might hear what Donald Trump was saying, hear this rhetoric and do something really stupid. I didn't imagine that it would be a candidate for Congress who would - who would do it.

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: And it's not just - I mean remember what happened to Michelle Fields, allegedly, you know, grabbed by Corey Lewandowski, who was running, you know, a big shot in the Trump camp at the time. There have been, you know, in West Virginia, we were talking about a reporter arrested for approaching Attorney General Jeff Sessions with questions. Things are different now and this environment matters, the context matters.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. And when you have a president that has called the media the enemy of the state. Now you can, you know, perhaps they'll try to differentiate this. But what's interesting about this race specifically is that Gianforte has completely embraced Donald Trump, is basically running as kind of the Donald Trump of Montana. And when he ran for governor in 2016, he tried to distance himself from the president. Found that that didn't work and found that his strategy this time would be to really tie himself to the president. He's had the vice president out there campaigning for him. As we know, the president voiced (ph) robo calls. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., has been in the state to campaign for him. So that's a really interesting part of this - this as well.

[09:45:02] BERMAN: All right, Caitlin Huey-Burns, Matt Lewis, stay safe. Thank you so much for being with us.

HARLOW: You stay safe, too. All reporter stay safe today.

All right, Attorney General Jeff Sessions facing more heat over his Russia ties. Now the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee calling for him to be investigated. All of this as the Department of Justice defends the attorney general's decision not to disclose those two meetings with Russian officials. More on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Attorney General Jeff Sessions this morning facing more scrutiny over his ties to Russia. The Department of Justice has confirmed to CNN that Sessions did not disclose meetings he had with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance. Now a top Democrat is calling for a new investigation into Sessions.

[09:50:11] BERMAN: All this as the fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, refuses to hand over requested documents to House lawmakers. The House Intelligence Committee is now preparing to subpoena Michael Flynn.

Let's bring in Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She's on the House Intelligence Committee.

Thank you so much for being with us.

Look, let's start with Jeff Sessions. You know, CNN is reporting that he did not disclose meetings with Russian officials on a security clearance form. But Jeff Sessions, his office says, the FBI told him he didn't have to. How do you see it?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D) CALIFORNIA: Well, I guess it really depends on whether he was in his official capacity as a senator or whether he was as a campaign associate. I think there's a difference there. And we don't know that and won't know that for some time.

BERMAN: But if he was as a senator, I mean you're never not a senator, right?

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: But if he did discuss anything in his role as a senator, would it be OK then not to list it on a security clearance form?

SPEIER: I would - I would believe so.

BERMAN: All right.

HARLOW: All right. So, and by the way, that's what his team is saying that they were told, look, you don't have to do this. As a senator, you don't have to disclose these meetings you have with ambassadors, et cetera. Moving on to some words you used. You said - SPEIER: Well, can I just say one other -

HARLOW: Sure.

SPEIER: Can I add one thing?

HARLOW: Yes.

SPEIER: If he was in his role as a campaign associate meeting with Ambassador Kislyak on a Trump campaign, that would be a different situation.

BERMAN: Understood.

HARLOW: And that's a gray area because he was a sitting senator as he was doing that.

Congresswoman, let me get your take, or just more of an explanation from you on some words you used, because you said there is a, quote, "tarantula web" of links between the Trump camp and the Russians. Now, former CIA chief John Brennan, when he testified earlier this week, did say he was concerned, very concerned, when he was in office. Concerned enough to support an investigation moving forward. However, he did not definitively say I saw collusion. Have you, in your position on the House Intel Committee, seen evidence of collusion?

SPEIER: We are still investigating all of that. What we do know is that the web of connections between Trump operatives and the Russians was very full. There were many people involved in that. We also know that the Trump organization did have many financial dealings with Russians. So we're really at the beginning of this investigation and we won't be able to make a determination -

HARLOW: Can you elaborate on those because the president has said repeatedly that he does no business with Russia, has no financial ties to Russia. What are you talking about specifically?

SPEIER: Well, we do know that there was financing, and that's open- source information, with a number of Russian oligarchs, that there were over 60 Russian oligarchs that purchased condominiums in Trump Towers in Florida. So there is much to investigate here. Regardless of what the president says in the present, that does not speak to the relationships over time.

One of the points that it's important to make, and it was pointed out in a dossier that became public that the Russians do spend a lot of time trying to solicit individuals and will attempt to ingratiate themselves with individuals, U.S. businesspeople, over long periods of time.

BERMAN: And that is something that former CIA director, John Brennan, said in his testimony just this week. Can we get your opinion on something that's developing today? The United Kingdom very upset with what it sees as leaks from the U.S. intelligence committee. I believe we have sound from the British prime minister, Theresa May -

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: From a short time ago where she said she's very concerned about this. Listen now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Shortly I will be traveling to the NATO Summit where I will be working with international colleagues on defeating terrorism. I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Do you share her concerns? I'm not talking about what President Trump may have said in the Oval Office in his meetings with Russians. That's a separate incident here. But the idea that maybe intelligence agencies in the United States are leaking information to the press about the Manchester investigation?

SPEIER: Well, Theresa May's indignation is well put, and we cannot have those kinds of leaks. They were in the middle of an active investigation. Once that name leaked out there were many stones that probably could not be turned over because of it or evidence that could have been somehow thrown away. I would say that we have a longstanding relationship with the U.K. that goes back, you know, centuries now, and this has not been a problem for the most part in the past. This is kind of a new phenomenon, and it's something that we need to shut down, wherever it is.

HARLOW: We have 30 seconds left. Your committee, Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, has refused to turn over documents to your committee and your Senate counterparts. Do - will you hold him - do you think he should be held in contempt of Congress?

[09:55:03] SPEIER: Well, he certainly will be subpoenaed, and we will make sure that in the subpoena that the Fifth Amendment cannot be exercised, particularly if you are going to subpoena documents from a business or an organization. So we will move forward with our investigation. Michael Flynn needs to be held accountable, just like any other American.

HARLOW: All right, so it sounds like TBD on that.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thank you very much.

We are waiting for President Trump to arrive at NATO headquarters in Brussels. A lot of people want to talk to him, including, as you just heard, British Prime Minister Theresa May. We're following the latest developments. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman. HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

Take a look at this. We have some live pictures right now out of Brussels.