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Source: Flynn to Hand Over Docs to Investigators; Trump's 'Covfefe' Tweet Sparks Bewilderment; Massive Bomb Kills 80, Injures Hundreds in Kabul. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired May 31, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: We are in unchartered territory with this president.
[07:00:06] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Sean Spicer refusing to confirm that Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret back-channel to Russia.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What your question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Setting up a communications channel for the purpose of evading your own government under scrutiny is just strange.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's a story they like, it's just fine. If it's a story that they don't like, it's fake news.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A massive suicide bomb attack has rocked Kabul's diplomatic quarter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chaos in the aftermath. Carnage everywhere. Burnt-out cars. People bloodied and walking away.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We are following breaking news out of Afghanistan. A suicide bomb attack rocking Kabul's highly-secured diplomatic quarter. Eighty people killed at an early count, more than 300 injured. I say early count. Those numbers may change for the worse.
The attack happening just yards from the German embassy. Some diplomats are among the injured. Here at home, President Trump's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, reversing course. He's now agreeing to turnover subpoenaed documents to Senate investigators.
CAMEROTA: White House spokesman Sean Spicer, meanwhile, refusing to confirm or comment on reports that Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret back channel to Russia.
But this morning, one word is bringing people on both sides of the aisle together. That word is "covfefe." We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns, live at the White House, who can interpret all of this for us.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll try. I'll get to that in a minute, Alisyn. Just kind of ramping it up here in the Russia investigation on Capitol Hill and in Washington, D.C.
First, members of Congress politely asked for information. And when they didn't get what they want, then they started issuing subpoenas. And that's at the point when an individual who's being looked at by the United States Congress finds himself with some potential legal exposure. The situation the president's fired national security adviser finds himself in this morning.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, now says he is willing to cooperate with Senate investigators to provide them with documents sought by two subpoenas. Flynn expected to hand over the first batch to the Senate Intelligence Committee by June 6.
Congressional investigators are expanding their sights to other Trump aides. Michael Cohen, a personal attorney to the president, flatly refusing a request from the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to offer up information and testify. Cohen lashing out, claiming a lack of evidence to corroborate the Russia narrative, labeling the investigation "a total fishing expedition" and accusing lawmakers of a rush to judgment but later admitting he would comply if subpoenaed.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer facing tough questions about all the Russia revelations when he held his first briefing in more than two weeks.
SPICER: I'm not going to get into it. But your question presupposes facts that have not been confirmed.
JOHNS: The White House refusing to deny whether President Trump's advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, sought a back channel to Russia President Vladimir Putin.
SPICER: Secretary Kelly and General McMaster both discussed that, in general terms, back channels are an appropriate part of diplomacy.
JOHNS: As the investigation is now looking into the intent of Kushner's contacts with Russia during the transition, including why he met with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, a man with deep ties to the Kremlin.
Back in March, the White House claimed Kushner was talking to the Russians in his role as an official primary point of contact with foreign governments. But the Russian bank offered a different account, calling it a business meeting.
SPICER: Mr. Kushner's attorney has said that Mr. Kushner has volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings, and he will do the same with these contacts, connected with any other inquiry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the president discuss it, though?
SPICER: I'm not going to get into what the president did or did not discuss.
JOHNS: The White House in spin mode, trying to downplay reports about turmoil in the West Wing.
SPICER: I think he's very pleased with the work of his staff. I think that he is frustrated, like I am and like so many others, to see stories come out that are patently false, to see narratives that are wrong, to see quote/unquote "fake news." When you see stories get perpetrated that are absolutely false, that are not based in fact, that is troubling.
JOHNS: Clashing with the media over the president's favorite subject.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Could you give me an example of fake news, Sean?
SPICER: Yes, absolutely.
ACOSTA: Give me an example.
SPICER: Sure. Friday, the president was having a great discussion at the G-7, and someone from the BBC and ultimately, an incoming reporter from "The New York Times" retweeted that the president was being rude by disrespecting the Italian prime minister.
When, in fact, you all and everyone at the meetings that we sit in watched the president with that one ear piece that's been used by other presidents. And yet, that the president did a great job at NATO.
JOHNS: And then abruptly storming out.
[07:05:07] JOHNS: And now a little bit more on the dust-up over "covfefe." So it all started last night. The president started a tweet, and it didn't end well, essentially saying something about negative press, apparently, coverage. He wrote the word "covfefe." However you want to pronounce it. Something almost anybody who uses social media can understand mis-fires occur. So the president took it down this morning and, in his place, he tweeted, "Who can figure out the true meaning of 'covfefe'? Enjoy." Giving him a pass on that one.
CUOMO: Oh, yes. He's really getting a pass, Joe. Did you see the number of retweets on the bottom of that e-mail? Maybe as many as ever gotten for anything he said as the leader of the -- thank you very much.
Let's bring in our political panel: CNN political analyst David Gregory; CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza; associate editor and columnist at Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard.
All right, brother Gregory. What do you got on "covfefe"?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I've got nothing. I've got -- I've got, you know, nothing. We will trace the beginning of the end of western civilization to -- to both the president's use of Twitter and our fascination with it.
But I mean, to be a little bit more serious, clearly, there's -- you know, he's in the middle of a new round of ranting about press coverage and about trying to distract from this investigation over Russia, the extent to which is distracting from something that really does matter, which is an actual agenda.
We can't lose sight of the fact that the coin of the realm for President Trump is accomplishment. And he has failed to accomplish key elements of his agenda that had a lot of excitement around it for conservatives who may not necessarily agree with him. And for those who supported him who might not have otherwise supported him if it were not for the uniqueness of the 2016 election year.
So whether it's stalled momentum on health care, a lot of questions about the future of tax reform as we get now deeper into the summer and facing the fall and in an election year for the mid-terms. I think this has got to be wearing on him. And I think the reporting is bearing that out. There are obvious signs of frustration and lashing out is bearing out how, I think, disoriented they feel.
CAMEROTA: So Chris, I mean, this is the cloud of Russia and the ongoing investigation, and all the threads every day do get in the way of whatever the president's planned agenda was.
So Michael Flynn had been kind of all over the map with this. He had a story to tell. He told congressional investigators. He wanted to tell it, but he wanted immunity. They said no. He would not appear. Now subpoenaed documents. Now the documents he has to hand over by June 6. So where does that leave us?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: More smoke. I feel like I say it almost every day. More smoke around an investigation, around questions that no, nothing has been proven in terms of collusion. But there is enough "there" there, whether it is Michael Flynn or Donald Trump's defense of Carter Page. It is 7:08 when I came up here. He was already in the middle of tweet No. 4.
Whether it's Paul Manafort, whether it's Jared Kushner. There's just a lot there. I think you see the president growing more and more frustrated, more and more isolated. But the truth is this is his own doing.
What he should have been, what he still could do, welcome the Bob Mueller investigation with open arms. But what did he do this morning? Call it yet again a witch hunt. He's his own worst enemy. All the staff talk that we have, and understandably so -- the communications director left yesterday -- admits the fact that the only -- the only person in that White House who really, really, really matters is Donald Trump.
You can sub other people in around him. But fundamentally, if he doesn't listen to them, if he does what he wants to do, which is what he does, then this isn't going to change. And I don't think any reasonable person should expect it to change.
CUOMO: A.B., here's the tweet that I care about. Because my theory of the case here is that the president is causing his own problems. even with the Russia investigation.
Yes, I know the Trump supporters will say, "What? It's all Congress and you in the media." No, it's what he did with Comey. It's what he did with the DNI. It's what he did with the NSA. It's how he talks about this, who he cottons to.
The latest two tweets. So now it is reported that the Democrats, who have excoriated Carter Page about Russia, don't want him to testify. He blows away their case him and now wants to clear his name by showing the false and misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan witch hunt.
A, why cotton to Carter Page? B, why set Carter Page, a guy who nobody around Trump wants to own, as being equal to and better than Jim Comey and John Brennan? And third, why is he leaning on reports when he says it's all fake news?
[07:10:17] A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, he retweeted a news account yesterday that made it look better for Jared Kushner, and it was based on anonymous sources.
CUOMO: And it's a story that got debunked.
STODDARD: He likes sources with -- anonymous sources when -- when he -- when they're...
CUOMO: Why cotton to this guy? Why tweet this? Why create this?
STODDARD: I mean, they've gone to pains, Chris, as you know, since last summer to say they didn't -- that the president never met Carter Page. And though he was around at certain moments, and that he is, you know, a thread in this -- in this investigation that -- you know, that he is the least close to Trump world and really sort of the -- this -- that basically, the president doesn't know him and that he sort of is trying to get in.
CUOMO: So how does he know that he can blow their case against him out of the water? How does he know that?
STODDARD: This -- this -- Chris, you are right. He brings himself a world of hurt with these tweets. He is very self-destructive.
The entire Comey firing showed it. He said it was because of the Rosenstein memo, the deputy attorney -- deputy A.G. He sent his spokesperson out to say the same thing. He sent Vice President Mike Pence out to to say the same thing. And then he told Lester Holt it was all about Russia. This is after we learned he asked James Comey for his loyalty; after
we learning that he asked Rogers and Coats for them to come out and publicly declare there was no investigation into collusion. This is a real investigation. It might be that all the collusion that took place, if there was any, was all unwitting and people on his staff were duped into doing things that were against the law.
The FBI doesn't investigate for its health and because it's bored. This is a real investigation. Every time he rails about it on Twitter, he brings more trouble for himself and more political heat. And this is not something that trouble. This is not something the president's staff can stop.
So you can get rid of the low-hanging fruit, like Mike Dubke on the staff. You can bring in new people like Corey Lewandowski, he and Dave Bossie, who are going to be yes-men. But no one is telling this president no. Not a White House counselor, not lawyers around him, no one is able to stop him from making this far more politically damaging than it has to be.
CILLIZZA: And by the way, just very quickly, the "covfefe" thing is dumb. David is right.
At the same time -- and David makes this point. At the same time, it's indicative of a guy who is just sitting around late at night, rapping on his phone. That, you know, that's fine -- actually, it gets me into trouble every once in a while doing that. And when you're the president of the United States, you really shouldn't be doing it.
I mean, again, it's a lack of discipline and, to A.B.'s point, a lack of anyone who says, "You know what? At 10 p.m., let's shelf the phone, and because you're going to be up early the next day. Let's shelf the phone and let's go to bed." Like he's just -- there's no one reigning him in. And that is -- it's telling. So deeply damaging to him.
CAMEROTA: Yes, so David, I mean, if there's nobody reigning him in or telling him no, there also appears to be a problem, at least from Sean Spicer's point of view, with asking the president questions and getting real answers.
So then Sean Spicer goes to the podium with the press; and he can't confirm or comment on the questions that the press has about Jared Kushner and whether or not Jared Kushner tried to set up this back channel. So I mean, at what point -- why is Sean Spicer holding these press briefings? You know? What's the point of these?
GREGORY: There's really no point. And what's unfortunate for Sean Spicer is that the White House press secretary position under President Trump doesn't have credibility.
And so, you know, I've been in this job. I've had interactions with press secretaries. I have a certain amount of sympathy for Sean Spicer, because you know, he's got to do what his boss wants him to do. His boss has not been truthful for the American people nor have people who work for President Trump.
And as long as that's the case, the White House doesn't have credibility. You don't know what to believe. And so you're just on the receiving end of a rant. That's not information, this argument. It's not helpful. And it's -- all it's doing is trying to foster divisions and create a lot of -- just to create a lot of noise.
I mean, the bottom line is we have an investigation here that's running on several tracks. It's a serious investigation. You have a president without discipline. You have a president who is going to have a very hard time getting back to an actual agenda. Apparently, I've heard conservative commentators in the last few days say this is all about jobs.
Great. Let's talk about jobs. Where are the jobs? Where is economic growth? Where are some of the things that the stock market was so excited about? Because you only have so much political capital. This president doesn't realize that. He's squandering it, because he is allowing himself to be dragged into something that he cannot control. But he thinks he still can.
CAMEROTA: OK. Panel, thank you very much for all of the insights. Nice to see you. But we do want to get now to our breaking news.
[07:20:13] There has been a massive suicide bomb that has rocked the diplomatic quarter in Kabul, Afghanistan. This blast happened during the morning rush hour there. It killed at least 80 people, and it's injured 300 more. Diplomats in the German embassy are among the injured.
So joining us now is Reuters correspondent Josh Smith. He felt the explosion and witnessed the devastation first hand.
Josh, we're happy that you are OK. Tell us what you saw.
JOSH SMITH, REUTERS CORRESPONDENT: As you mentioned, it happened early this morning. I was actually out on assignment elsewhere in the city when we felt just a tremendous shaking and turned around and saw a massive cloud of gray smoke and black ash filling the sky above the central part of the city.
Here at our bureau, which is just a couple of blocks away from the blast site itself, it actually blew out windows behind these drapes here. We have no more windows. And actually pushed several doors off their hinges.
The real victims, however, as usual, are the Afghan civilians who paid a very heavy price. I was earlier at the hospital, also just a few blocks from here. There was a steady stream of ambulances delivering wounded and then later dead bodies to the hospital.
CAMEROTA: Yes, and obviously, children and women are, we believe, among the injured and dead. Josh, it was next to the German embassy. Is there a sense on the ground that the German embassy was targeted?
SMITH: It's still not exactly clear who the attacker was aiming. There's been no claim of responsibility yet. The Taliban have explicitly said it was not them. So we don't exactly have insight into what the specific target was.
The German embassy was, however, heavily damaged, as was, to a lesser degree, the French embassy, some of the other areas that were heavily damaged. There were buildings that housed the offices of a major telecom and bank, where very many of the victims we talked to have been working just before the blast.
CUOMO: Hey, Josh, what do you make of this as a window to the security environment in Afghanistan in general? As you know, the U.S. president contemplating the request for more troops, what involvement of involvement is necessary? And that decision is going to be predicated on an understanding of the state of security there. How do you see it?
SMITH: Well, I've been here in Afghanistan for over four years now. And every time I write one of these news stories saying that this is, you know, among the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan. I hope that it's going to be the last one.
And yet, they continue to have these attacks that, against all odds, continue to be among the deadliest we've ever seen here. It certainly doesn't bode well for the future of security in Afghanistan; and Afghans are paying the price for that. The U.N. has been documenting record high numbers of civilian casualties.
And there's also been extremely high casualties among the Afghan security forces, who the U.S. and their allies work on training. What's not clear is whether a few thousand more advisers here will actually be able to secure the country in a way that ends this violence.
CAMEROTA: Josh Smith, thank you for taking time for us this morning. And stay safe.
CUOMO: All right. So what do members of President Trump's transition team think of the reports that Jared Kushner wanted to set up back- channel communications with Russians? We have one of them next.
[07:22:58] CUOMO: The cloud of the Russia investigation is real. There's no question about that. But the question is, is the president making it worse with his tweets and his spinning of what is fake about it and, therefore, hindering his ability to get anything done for you, the American people?
Let's discuss with Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. Good to see you, my friend.
Thanks for coming on NEW DAY to make the case, as always.
I cannot take authorship of the theory I just laid out there. "The Wall Street Journal" has it in an op-ed today, once again criticizing the president for basically trafficking too much and what's going on in Russia, becoming distracted and not putting into place the -- the whole agenda that he promised the American people. Your take?
REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: Well, no doubt this is a distraction, Chris, and I think the president should step aside from any comments, any tweets on the investigation and focus on the agenda that he ran on.
But if you look, he had a great nine-day trip overseas. This -- this Russia cloud, as you put it, didn't have any influence on his ability to go out there and make a case for America, whether it was to NATO or to Middle East allies on how we should be working together for a common good.
So yes, I would agree with the point, though. Stop tweeting about it, stop talking about it and get about the business of your agenda.
CUOMO: What did you think of the foreign press's assessment of the trip? There was a lot of criticism for the president, stylistically and substantively? What do you make of that?
DUFFY: They don't like him. That doesn't -- that doesn't surprise me. But here, you have a president who comes in, you know -- his concern is security and safety and, you know, terrorism. And I think you have other European leaders who are more concerned about the environment and global warming. And those are two different tracks and two different visions for their people.
And again, when you have a president who is, you know, not as soft and sweet as maybe the Europeans and a little more rough and tumble and American style, they don't take too kindly to it.
CUOMO: So here's case in point this morning from the president. So now it is reported, he says on Twitter, that the Democrats, who have excoriated Carter Page about Russia don't want him to testify. That is, in fact, not the state of play, right?
[07:25:10] Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the committee, on the House committee, said, "We're not going to negotiate about a date with someone like Carter Page. We'll just tell him when he wants to testify." So that's not what the reporting is.
But they don't want him to testify, he says, because he blows away their case against him and now wants to clear his name by showing the false or misleading testimony by Jim Comey and John Brennan. Witch hunt.
Now, isn't this the problem, Congressman? You know, he says he doesn't know Carter Page. His people call me all the time, telling me Carter Page, he had nothing to do with the president. The president never met him. He doesn't know anything about him.
But now, he knows his testimony so well? He knows it blows it out of the water, so much so he can put him on even footing with Jim Comey and Brennan? What do you think of this?
DUFFY: So this is my viewpoint. Do I think the investigation is not going to show any evidence of collusion? Just like you had James Clapper on -- I think it was yesterday -- who said he hasn't seen any evidence, not just before the election, but in almost the three months after the election he saw no evidence of collusion between Russia and President Trump.
I think the investigation is going to bear that out, as will.
But in the process, as you pointed out, there's a cloud. I think it makes sense -- listen, let's -- let's bring all these folks in, whether they're coming to the Senate or the House Intelligence Committee, whether it's part of Mueller's investigation. We're now in this -- in this system where an investigation is happening, and everyone should cooperate, and we should provide as much information as possible.
Because I think, in the end, the president doesn't have anything to hide with regard to relationships with Russia, because there was no collusion there. So put him out there. I agree with that point, Chris.
CUOMO: So the investigation is ongoing. We don't know what they have. I must say, though, Clapper went to great lengths to say, "It is wrong to cast my saying I didn't see proof as meaning there was no proof. I wasn't in charge with that part of the investigation. I respected the FBI's independence. So I wasn't aware of what evidence they have."
He went to great lengths -- you can check the transcript -- to not make the point that you just made. But just for the record, just so people know.
DUFFY: Go ahead. But I think it's -- it's important to note, though, Chris -- and I've seen his interview, as well. And he was very -- he watched his words very closely.
But again, whether it was James Clapper or with Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California who sits on the Intelligence Committee in the Senate. She's also come out and said, whether it was with the FBI or DNI, she hasn't had any reporting that there was collusion, as well. And that doesn't -- we had this conversation before. That doesn't mean there isn't evidence. But there is no one publicly coming forward and saying that they've seen evidence on the collusion.
CUOMO: But it's an ongoing investigation. Let it play out. We'll see what they have or what they don't have. But trying to jump the gun on either side is counterproductive. We've talked about this before.
DUFFY: But -- but I know. But jumping the gun is when we talk about it every single day.
CUOMO: There are new developments every day, often fueled by the president or certain things that just require, as Clapper said. Not just context. But what happened in the substance of those, like with Jared Kushner?
DUFFY: I think for you and I and for your viewers, we should sit back and say, "You know what? Let the investigation happen."
CUOMO: That's what I'm saying to you.
DUFFY: If Clapper -- but we talk about it every single day. It's a new story every...
CUOMO: There are new developments every day.
DUFFY: And it comes -- but it comes back to the point that, if -- if I mean, President Obama was watching, through his intelligence community, any contact that Hillary Clinton was having with the Russians; Donald Trump connections to the Russians. They were concerned about Russian involvement in the election, all the way up to the election.
DUFFY: But that was the start of November. They had almost three months where they knew Donald Trump was going to be the next president. They were looking and leaving bread crumbs all over the government on the information and the evidence that they had.
I have to believe that the head of the DNI, of our national intelligence. The point of coordination on intelligence, if that evidence existed, he probably would have had it, and he would have -- he would have been pretty evasive to say, "You know, Chris, I..."
CUOMO: You can believe it.
DUFFY: "I can't tell you that or I can't go into this."
CUOMO: You can believe it, but a lot of people who defend the president believe it. I'm just telling you Clapper says that's not the case. That he wasn't privy to the book on this case. He didn't know the evidence. And that's why he says he hasn't seen any. He didn't develop any independently during his intel phase.
DUFFY: Well, then...
CUOMO: He doesn't know -- and I know that Feinstein says she hasn't seen it, but it's an ongoing investigation. I'm just saying, if you want to let it unfold, unfold.
Let me ask you this quick thing before I let you go.
DUFFY: Right, right. But you, too. Both of us. Both of us should do that, Chris.
CUOMO: I am. I'm just reporting on the developments as they come.
DUFFY: All right.
CUOMO: When the president says this stuff about Carter Page that can't be true, I have to report on it.
DUFFY: I agree with you. CUOMO: Jared Kushner...
DUFFY: I agree with that.
CUOMO: That channel of communications happened. We've heard it from a million different sources.
CUOMO: But this way, with a Russian banker who was part of this sanctioned cabal of --