Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Armed Suspect Rams Car Into Police In Paris; Trump Contradicts Lawyers On if He's Being Investigated; Russia Threatens To Treat U.S. Jets In Syria As "Targets"; Trump Under Investigation? He Likely Doesn't Know; Top Intel Dem: Trump Wants To "Take Down" Mueller. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 19, 2017 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- breaking news this morning just hours after a terror attack in London. Authorities in Paris are on the move in the heart of the city after a car reportedly rammed into a mobile police unit. CNN's Melissa Bell is in Paris with eyes on all of this. Melissa, what is the very latest that you are hearing?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We just learned from police, an anti-terror investigation has been opened, Kate. So clearly police here believed that this was yet another terror attack targeting once again security forces. This is something that we have seen increasingly over the course of the last few months.

If it is confirmed that this was terrorist in its nature, deliberate in nature, it would be the fifth attack targeting security forces in four months. That part of the Champs-Elysees, heading toward the (inaudible) that's now been entirely cordoned off, Kate.

You can see a heavy police presence. When you get down there, you can also clearly see a white car, the car that we now know overtook a police truck making its way down the avenue before trying to ram into it.

The man was believed by police to have been armed. He is on the other side of the street, lying in a heap. Police believed that he's died from his injuries.

Clearly, then, an anti-terror investigation opened. They believe this was a deliberate car ramming. Another in a long line of incidents and over the course of the last few months, in February, March, April and again just early in June, terror attacks that have sought to target either policemen specifically or military personnel and each time, Kate, those that are out patrolling some of France's most iconic and heavy touristic areas including the Champs-Elysees.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. With all that in mind, as we put it in context, this has been a very difficult few, many months with attacks of many different kinds. How is the security situation in Paris changed? What have you heard? What does it look like?

BELL: Here in France, we've been living in a state of emergency for many months. That's going to continue until July. So really when you walk around Paris and anyone who comes through here as a tourist, we will see heavy police presence, especially around the monuments and avenues like this.

The airports heavily guarded by heavily armed military personnel and police forces. So each time this happens, this is the fifth time in just four months, it is essentially a suicide mission. We are talking about a person getting into a car, taking a weapon out against people who are themselves heavily armed, who will not hesitate to put an end to the situation.

BOLDUAN: Fifth time in just four months, as you mentioned. Authorities opening an anti-terror investigation into all of this. Melissa, thank you very much. We are coming to you with updates throughout the hour. Really appreciate it.

Other news that we are keeping an eye on today, any moment now, we could hear from President Trump as he faces reporters amid new questions about the Russian investigation and his legal strategy right now.

The president contradicting his own lawyer on whether he's being investigated. The president says, yes, yes he is, according to his tweet. The lawyer says, no. No he is not. Keep in mind, it is possible that neither of them know for sure exactly what the answer is. The president's lawyer is defending the president's right to fire the director of the FBI. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: Let me get this straight. The president of the United States, after advice and consultation with his attorney general and his deputy attorney general and with others in the administration which is what a president does, makes a determination to terminate the FBI director based on the recommendation of his Department of justice. Now, under your theory, the Department of Justice, through its special counsel's office would be investigating the president for taking the action that they recommended him to take.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": A couple things, one, I'm not arguing --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I want to bring in right now, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, for much more on this. So Dana, not only did Jay Sekulow defend the Comey firing, he has also tried it seems in the past 24 hours plus, to say as many times as possible the president is not under investigation though the president's tweet says otherwise. What is the White House strategy that you are hearing behind this full court press against basically the word investigation?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not so sure it's a White House strategy. It seems to me it is a President Trump strategy. That is get someone out there, get them on television, tell the world, I am not under investigation. Sure, it contradicts the tweet, but, you know, it's certainly not the first time we have seen contradictory information or statements coming from this White House.

This is a president who we know, if the Comey testimony and memos are correct, has been apoplectic since the minute he got into office, before he got into office, wanting the public to think and see that he is not under investigation. This seems to be just another wrinkle of that same notion.

[11:05:02]Meanwhile, the more Jay Sekulow was out talking about it, the more we are talking about it, and the less Republicans in Congress and the Republicans who work for the president in the White House feel that they can focus on what they want to focus on, which is health care reform, maybe tax reform.

Maybe other issues that really are those that people out there who are not, you know, in the beltway following this Russia investigation every two seconds really want the president to focus on, things that affect their lives.

BOLDUAN: Much is coming from Republicans on Capitol Hill who are trying to or would like to focus elsewhere. Marco Rubio had a different take on all of this. His suggestion, it seems, is to basically say investigate it all because the president will be proven right in the end. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), INTELLIGENGE COMMITTEE: The one thing we have learned I think from the testimony of multiple people now is the president is pretty fired up about this, OK? From every pronouncement we have seen, feels strongly he did nothing wrong and wants people to say that. That, in no way is going to impede any of this work from continuing. It's going to happen. This is going to move forward and get the full truth out there. I repeat, I believe that is the best thing that can happen for the president and this administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Definitely a different look, take on the word investigation. Investigate it all, he says. We are right in the end, he thinks Trump would say. Is there a chance that the White House would say President Trump, specifically, would take that advice?

BASH: You know, we'll see. It would not surprise me if Marco Rubio, just like many of the president's own staffers intentionally went on television to get the message to the president, meaning that has happened and continues to happen inside the White House, trying to reach the president through his favorite medium, television.

Look, I think that Marco Rubio is being a realist. That is that the special council is going to investigate what the special council is going to investigate which is everything that has the potential to be criminal. That's going to continue.

So, that is why you see the frustration. You didn't see it as much with Marco Rubio, but behind the scenes. Why not take the Bill Clinton White House motto, which is we are under investigation, there's not a lot we can do about it. Let's focus on what we can focus on and actually get things done.

In that sense, in the past, in that model, they were able to do a bunch of stuff during the Clinton years that actually allowed the president to ultimately remain popular and have a pretty good legacy.

BOLDUAN: I want to get your take on another wrinkle in this expanding investigation. The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reports are he's looking into hiring a new attorney to represent him during the investigation. What is behind that move, do you think?

BASH: Well, our Evan Perez has been doing a lot of reporting on this. What his sources are saying is that there has been a feeling for some time, from people in and around Jared Kushner, that he might not have gotten the best legal advice.

Not just on, you know, some of the potentially criminal things, potentially criminal things they are looking into but the more mundane, run of the mill, I'm getting ready to be a White House aide stuff, like not filling out his disclosure form properly.

So it would not be surprising if, in fact, Jared Kushner did get different legal advice and hire different attorneys who are more familiar with that and who, from his perspective, would serve him better. I mean, Jamie Gorelick (ph) is his lawyer.

She's gotten a lot of guff from fellow her Democrats because she is a Democrat. She was deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. So there are a lot of strange bedfellows here. When it comes to basic legal advice, it would not be surprising if Jared Kushner hired others as well.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Dana. Thank you.

BASH: You too.

KEILAR: An important note for everybody, Dana's series "Badass Women" continues today. Check out Dana's profile, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is New Hampshire's first female governor and now senator. Watch that piece. Go to cnn.com/badasswomen. Thanks, Dana.

Now I want to turn our focus overseas. The kremlin says it no longer will cooperate with the United States in Syria. This after U.S. shot down a Syrian warplane believed to have dropped bombs near U.S.-backed forces that are fighting ISIS.

Now Russian officials say it was a move that broke international law and helped terrorists. A big question this morning is could this mean a confrontation is coming between the U.S. and Russia?

CNN's Barbara Starr is joining me now from the Pentagon. Barbara, when all of these headlines were coming out, the statement coming from the Russian Defense Ministry, what is going on here? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, the pentagon is, I think, fair to say as a political statement from the kremlin.

[11:10:05]That they want to not engage in this communication with the U.S. military and Syria anymore as a result of the shoot down of that Russian/Syrian jet by the United States.

So let's unpack this a little bit. The U.S. did shoot down a Syrian jet over the weekend that it said was bombing and attacking near U.S.- backed forces. That it was a self-defense move and had every right to do that under the rules of the road out there and the Syrian regime forces had been attacking U.S.-backed forces that the U.S. was going to defend.

That action now prompting the kremlin this morning. The Ministry of Defense to say we are not going to talk to the U.S. anymore about deconflicting air space and staying out of everybody's way.

Right now, the U.S. says that communications line is still open. That will have to be watched carefully. The Russians are also saying anything they see flying in Western Syria, again, they will treat as a target. The U.S. says it doesn't think it is being targeted by the Russians, but obviously, a lot of sensitivities here -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Maybe viewed as just political words, but dangerous political words at the very, very least right now. Great to see you, Barbara. Thank you so much.

I want to talk more about this right now with CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel, thanks so much for coming in.

COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You bet, Kate. It's good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: So as Barbara was getting to the statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, they are stopping military cooperation they say with the United States and Syria. This is also how the statement was crafted. I want to read part of it.

It says that "Aircraft and unmanned vehicles belonging to the international coalition will be escorted by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets." What does that mean?

LEIGHTON: Well, theoretically, Kate, it means that they could shoot them down. Air targets, of course, is the common term that is used for any type of radar signature that you see when it's a hostile or an unidentified target. So they could mean as something more benign where it's just to what the radar sees and then they find it identified with a U.S. or coalition aircraft.

They go up and go after it. It doesn't necessarily mean they will shoot it down. They are leaving themselves the option that they can shoot it down. That is really where there's a big danger of escalation in all of this. BOLDUAN: There's so much danger in escalation and what these words could lead to. In your view, what is the best case/worst case scenario out of this?

LEIGHTON: So the best case scenario is that things continue, more less as they are. That the hot line, the deconfliction line, stays open between the Russian forces and (inaudible) and the American base and Qatar. That line is an unclassified line and there's a G-mail back up to it.

That kind of line -- if that stays open, that's a good thing. Worst case is they truly cut that line and don't talk to us and they start shooting down our drones and manned aircraft or trying to do that.

BOLDUAN: Let me turn my focus quick, I was looking down to make sure I have the latest update from the Champs-Elysees. You were probably hearing Melissa Bell in Paris reporting at the top of the hour. There was an incident and authorities there had opened an anti-terror investigation. An armed suspect rammed into a police mobile unit there.

As Melissa points out, this is the fifth incident in just four months in Paris. Obviously, a lot needs to be known. What is the first thing, Colonel, they should be looking at? What do you look at here?

LEIGHTON: But what I look here is the connection. If they start interrogating or when they start interrogating the suspect, the one that they have down on the ground of the Champs-Elysees, that is going to be the key. What they have to do is connect that person's relationships.

They are going to have to look at his social media, his travel and what we are seeing here, potentially, is the kind of offensive that ISIS has warned of as the American coalition forces are closing in on Raqqa, the capital of ISIS.

We know we are going to see more and more of these kinds of attacks and I think the types of things we have seen in France and prior to the current situation in Britain, the other attacks in Britain. That shows that ISIS is on the move.

They are basically inspiring their people to do sole source attacks, basically single attacks or small group attacks. That's the kind of thing that is even more dangerous because you really don't know where and when these kinds of attacks are going to take place. It's very hard to predict those.

But that's what this effort is all about, prediction, prevention and when something like this happens, finding out from the person that they have in custody what else is next, if they know anything.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and according to France's Interior Ministry, unclear right now if that suspect is alive or dead after what happened there. We are staying close to it. Colonel, thank you so much. It's very good to see you.

[11:15:10]LEIGHTON: Same here, Kate. Good to see you as well.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Also following more breaking news, as the colonel is just alluding to, another terror attack in London. This one, a driver targets a crowd outside of a mosque. Hear what the mayor of the city of London just said.

Plus, also new this morning, the president's lawyer says it is impossible that the president obstructed justice. His firing James Comey was allowed, fully within his right. We will discuss.

In the most expensive House race, ever, and the first big one of President Trump's presidency, a new ad linking the Democrats to the congressional baseball shooting from an outside political action group. The reaction from both sides from each campaign is pouring in. You will want to see this, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: President Trump's attorney this morning insisting that the president is not under investigation. That contradicts the president himself who tweeted that he is being investigated.

So who is right and isn't it also a possibility that neither of them know right now? What does it mean for the investigation and for the politics at play here?

[11:20:03]Let me bring in right now, former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic," and Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania and presidential candidate.

Gentlemen, it's great to have you here. Thank you so much. So Michael, what is Jay Sekulow doing? What is the plan here? Give me your take?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: You know, I think Jay is a good lawyer. We actually went to the same law school. I'm not sure he's had the chance to be involved in many criminal cases or investigations. I don't know if he's ever tried a case or picked a jury. Those things are unique skill sets.

What you learn when you do that is that everything you say in the course of an investigation can have an unintended consequence. In this case, he picked a fight with Chris Wallace. Not to take away from his legal abilities, he does great work in the appellate field.

I just don't know that he's used to having these kinds of cases. To hear Jay Sekulow and Newt Gingrich come out and try to resurrect Richard Nixon and claim that the president can do no wrong I think is almost laughable.

You know, not to quote (inaudible), but their hypocrisy seems to know no bounds in this situation. So I'm not sure, again. I think Jay is a good lawyer. Clearly, in this case, there's a miscommunication. The fact is, it was the president who tweeted and acknowledged that he was under investigation.

BOLDUAN: They say, of course, he was tweeting about news reports. Again, we have also been told that the president's tweets are official White House statements. I am left in an in between place where I just shrug and say Senator, help me understand this.

During these interviews, one thing that Jay Sekulow did seemed to confirm is that the special prosecutor does not have a duty or obligation to notify the president or counsel if he is under actual investigation.

So they can't say, definitely, he's not. They can't say definitely that he is, I guess, unless they really were told. Why do you think the president sees it as important to put his counsel out there to debate this singular issue, and if he's under investigation or not?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, this comes back to what the focus of this administration should be delivering on what the president said he wanted to do during the campaign and a lot of this conversation is a distraction away from very important things that the American public cares about.

I don't think the American public cares deeply about whether the president thinks he is under investigation or is under investigation. There's a special prosecutor there. Obviously he's looking at all sorts of things.

Whether he's looking at the president (inaudible), we'll find out soon enough to devote resources to fight this issue right now. Again, it's just not -- you are not focused on what you need to be focused on. That distraction hurts the president.

BOLDUAN: To kind of that point, Ron, why not take the Marco Rubio suggested approach whether he is offering the president or offering out there saying it doesn't matter if I'm not under investigation. Investigate everything because I'm innocent.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Now I think the point of this is very different actually. I think if you look at the president's tweets over the past week, he has clearly opened the possibility that at some point he will attempt to fire. He will try to fire if he believes Robert Mueller --

BOLDUAN: So you think this is intentional and laying the groundwork for something?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I think it is very important politically for the president to say I am not under investigation because I think if he is under investigation, it becomes even tougher to fire down the road. I think the key question here is, are Republicans in Congress do not want him, fire Bob Mueller, then they need to send a very clear signal that will be unacceptable.

So far, as I have written, every time he has broken a window, they have sweep up the glass. If this is really different in their minds, and it may not be. If it is, Marco Rubio is saying he shouldn't do it.

The verb that Paul Ryan came up was that he would be surprised if he did it, not that he would outraged. Ultimately, they don't want him to do it. I'll disagree with Senator Santorum. I think that usually, a scandal is a cloud over the administration's agenda. This time, it's operating like a hook.

Because we have the Senate in the process now of possibly the most secretive process ever for a major piece of legislation with a health care bill that could change the health care situation for tens of millions of Americans.

No hearings, no public debate, no public disclosure of the bill and it's almost being completely eclipsed by the focus on Russia. So in this way, it is actually benefiting, I think --

SANTORUM: That's just baloney, Ron. All these bills --

BROWNSTEIN: Really no hearings? How many hearings have there been? Have you seen the bill?

SANTORUM: Has the bill been voted on, Ron? Has the bill been voted on? The answer is the bill has not been voted. They are still working on trying to put the bill together. You don't have hearings on a bill that you don't have yet. They are still trying to put the language together.

BROWNSTEIN: Really? You worked on welfare reform in 1994, Senator.

[11:25:10]SANTORUM: That's right. We sat together and we put together and took a lot of time --

BROWNSTEIN: How many hearings did you have?

SANTORUM: I took a year and a half of my time when I was in the House and worked on welfare in private meetings before we introduced the bill. Afterwards when I got elected to the Senate, we worked in private meetings for months before we came forward with the bill, and then you have hearings. Ron, the idea that there needs to be hearings before there is a bill is outrageous.

BROWNSTEIN: So there will be hearings after the bill?

SANTORUM: I hope there will be hearings.

BROWNSTEIN: Don't hold your breath.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: What were you saying if it comes out and they have a vote on it before July 4th, which is the goal?

SANTORUM: That would be a huge mistake. I don't think that's going to happen. Look, you can't have the Ted Cruz and Mike Lee on one side and Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins on the other side, and a few others in that group that are going to allow this process to be rammed down their throat.

This is going to be more deliberate than what is being portrayed, it has to be. There has to be more discussion. It's going to be out there in the public. The American public is going to know what they are voting on before they vote on it.

BOLDUAN: TBD, stand by for that. Senator, stand by. You can join me in that conversation. Michael, back to the Russian investigation, though, because I have another question about this. Another point that Jay Sekulow argued today and has been arguing is that the president cannot obstruct justice because he has every right to fire the FBI director. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEKULOW: The executive is obstructing with itself. That's what you are saying by taking action of the authority to do. You are a smart guy. Does the president have the authority, for whatever reason he chooses to terminate the FBI director, like James Comey said? He serves at the pleasure of the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But from what we have seen and know so far, Michael, the obstruction of justice question gets to the trying to shut down the Flynn investigation element of this conversation. Is Sekulow correct here?

MOORE: No, I don't think he's right. We don't elect a king to be in the White House. They are saying the president can do nothing wrong and he can do whatever he wants to do. He works for us. The people in Congress are trying to find out what happened. The Senate is going through the hearing. To say that he can't obstruct justice is wrong. The question is whether or not he can face a criminal trial for it.

BOLDUAN: Right.

MOORE: I think there's good legal debate on whether or not a sitting president can be indicted, but that has nothing to do with an impeachment process. I'll say this, we are not in what I would call a constitutional crisis. We may be in a crisis of conscience with the Congress to determine whether or not the people in the House of Representative have the fortitude to stand-up and move forward as they see the shenanigans out of the White House.

But the discussion that my colleagues on the panel had is sort of indicative of the problem. The fact is this, this president has lost credibility. He's lost credibility with the public and world leaders and lost credibility with leaders in Congress because they can't count on him to have their backs when they move forward with any of his domestic or foreign agenda.

That's a fact. He came out and championed the health care bill that the House passed now he calls it mean. The people in the Senate have any belief that he would stand behind them if they put a bill forward. So I think the problem is he's lost credibility. BOLDUAN: We are going to talk much more of that in a second. Shenanigans is exactly what I welcome on this show every day. Thank you so much you, guys. It's great to see you all.

Speaking of that secret Republican health care bill, just in, the Democrats in the Senate announcing a big move tonight. Stand by for that.

Plus, just hours after a terror attack in London, moments ago, an armed man targeted police in Paris. You are looking at live pictures there of the scene there playing out at the Champs-Elysees. We are live at the scene next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)