Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Devin Nunes Threatens Jeff Sessions With Contempt Over Russia Info; Interview with Representative Brendan Boyle; Melania Trump's Life as First Lady; Israeli Operatives Dug Up Dirt on Obama Advisers?; Eruptions Threaten Thousands in Hawaii; Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 7, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: -- unnamed, at least publicly, it's classified, but the Justice Department has been clear with him telling him essentially, you're not going to get it, this could pose a risk to lives, sources, and even an ongoing criminal investigation. But as we also reported on Friday, Kate, in many cases Nunes presses for documents that he doesn't end up reading.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean, so putting that aside, if Nunes does hold Sessions in contempt, what does that mean for the attorney general?

JARRETT: Well, if he was actually successful in that effort, it could be quite serious as contempt is actually a federal crime that would be pursued by the U.S. attorney's office here in D.C. But I think we're pretty far off from that. He would need a majority of his colleagues in the House to get on board. And more to the point, Sessions is recused from the Russia investigation.

BOLDUAN: Right.

JARRETT: As Devin Nunes well is aware of and this request falls squarely within the Russia investigation, according to a source familiar with the matter as we reported yesterday. So it's really unclear what the play is here -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And remember, everyone is old enough to remember Devin Nunes himself had recused himself from the Russia investigation for a hot minute and then that all changed.

Great to see you, Laura. Thank you so much.

JARRETT: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, he sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: All right. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: You're no fan of Jeff Sessions, but do you think he should be held in contempt of Congress for not turning over more documents related to the Russia probe as Nunes is threatening?

BOYLE: No, I don't. You know, I have to give Devin Nunes credit. He's actually the good defense attorney that Donald Trump has been desperately looking for. The House Intelligence Committee under Devin Nunes has become a joke. It has no credibility. I give credit to the Senate Intelligence Committee that at least has been acting like professionals and adults under their Republican chairman and Democratic ranking member, and it's embarrassing to me as a House member that I can't say the same about the House Intelligence Committee.

Devin Nunes and some of the senior Republican leadership on that committee 2has been more interested in playing political games and protecting this administration than actually getting to the truth.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about politics then, real and perceived. The conversation up until now has really been, how can Republicans avoid talking about the Russia investigation as they face their midterm elections and on the flip side, how the Democrats are going to capitalize on it, which has me wondering this morning what then is the president trying to do when he tweets out this, "Is this phony witch hunt going to go on even longer so it wrongfully impacts the midterm elections, which is what the Democrats always intended? Republicans better get tough and smart before it is too late."

Is the president taking away your ammunition here?

BOYLE: No. You know, actually, if you look at the last 15 months, Kate, where Democrats had their largest majority on the generic congressional ballot was during the health care debate. I believe that the more we're talking about health care, the fact the Republicans attempted to take away health care from 30 million Americans and impose an age tax on those over 50, the fact that premiums are going to go up this October in part because of changes to the health care law that Republicans did successfully push through, I think when we talk about health care, taxes, the kind of bread and butter issues, we open our biggest leads. So in the irony --

BOLDUAN: So you also think -- you also think that you don't -- you don't need to be -- you should be talking about other things than Russia for your elections?

BOYLE: Yes, the irony is that when I'm back home in my district like I was this past week in Philadelphia, when I'm engaging with constituents, yes, I'll talk about the Mueller investigation, I'll say that we need to protect the integrity of it. But then that's up to Mueller and his career prosecutors to investigate this.

What I spend most of my time talking about is what I'm actually working on. Health care, raising living standards, opposing extreme legislation from this majority, I think as Democrats the more we talk about those issues, the better we'll do this November.

BOLDUAN: Rudy Giuliani yesterday, Congressman, said that the president doesn't have to comply with the subpoena for Mueller if it would come to that. Legally they can battle that out in court. Politically, though, is there any way the Democrats can force his hand?

BOYLE: Yes, the reality is the Supreme Court has actually already litigated this. The -- the Monica Lewinsky affair in the late '90s, Bill Clinton attempted to refuse a subpoena under the Paula Jones lawsuit. He lost that in the Supreme Court. So we already have a court precedent. There is no question that we have a president, not a king. The president is not above the law. He will need to supply -- he will need to respond to a subpoena and comply with it. And the courts have already settled this matter.

BOLDUAN: Yes. That doesn't stop anybody from fighting it out, though, in court.

BOYLE: He can, but he will lose. But he can, yes.

BOLDUAN: You're on Foreign Affairs, as I said. You have poked fun at Republicans who say that the president deserves a Nobel Prize for what he's done with North Korea so far. Do you concede, though, that progress has been made? I mean, even South Korea's president is giving him credit.

[11:35:04] BOYLE: Look, I'm glad that -- first the idea that Donald Trump will get a Nobel Prize after all the talk he has had about bombing various countries and even committing war crimes, talking about committing war crimes is a bit of a joke. That said, I'm an American first --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But, Brendan --

BOYLE: Yes.

BOLDUAN: President Obama, before he really had done anything on the hope and prayer that he would bring peace to the world, won the Nobel Prize.

BOYLE: Yes. And I think that President Obama, if you remember, in his acceptance speech, even acknowledged that it was more an award for the hopes for the future and the thing to come as opposed to anything he had done in a brief period in office.

But in terms of Donald Trump winning the Nobel Prize, look, I want there to be a peaceful resolution to the Korean peninsula, I would be more than happy to give credit to him or frankly anyone else who would attempt to achieve that. That's in all of our interests.

You mentioned that I serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee, I will tell you that on our committee, thanks to our senior Democrat and senior Republican, we really do try to achieve bipartisanship on that committee. We worked well on the Korean peninsula issue. And there is nothing more as an American and as someone who wants peace that I would love to see than to finally have an end to the Korean War after almost 70 years.

BOLDUAN: Well, what is success, though? Is success, for you, only denuclearization?

BOYLE: Success has to include full denuclearization.

BOLDUAN: OK.

BOYLE: And it has to be our definition, real denuclearization. There has been some talk that Kim Jong-un's definition of that varies from ours. That has to be resolved and made clear that sanctions won't be relieved until we have full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

BOLDUAN: Congressman Brendan Boyle, thanks for coming on.

BOYLE: All right. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.

Coming up for us, First Lady Melania Trump, her poll numbers are at an all time high as a new report details the separate lives that she and the president are leading inside the White House. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:22] BOLDUAN: In just hours, a big moment for First Lady Melania Trump. Front and center for a Rose Garden event to unveil her platform and the causes that she will champion. One of several high- profile appearances that she's made in the last few weeks. She attended Barbara Bush's funeral, of course, posing for a picture that essentially broke the Internet with former presidents and first ladies, absent her husband.

Mrs. Trump was also credited with organizing a very successful state visit for the French president and his wife. This more public profile, though, is in contrast with the new report from "The Washington Post" that in private the first lady and the president lead very separate lives. As the "Washington Post" puts it, "Political marriages tend to be more complicated than most, but it's striking that the Trumps make so little effort to project a more united front."

With me right now, one of the reporters behind that "Washington Post" report, Mary Jordan.

Thanks for coming in, Mary.

MARY JORDAN, CO-WROTE ARTICLE ON FIRST LADY MELANIA TRUMP: Great to talk to you.

BOLDUAN: So separate schedules, different priorities, what did you all learn about what happens behind closed doors at the White House?

JORDAN: Well, just very -- how very, very little time, extraordinary little time that they spend together. They don't eat together. He travels a lot. And, you know, basically Melania Trump has been invisible. We haven't really known what she's been doing for the whole first year and it is very interesting that now as the headlines about all the infidelities that are alleged to have happened during their 13-year marriage, now all of a sudden she is coming out and doing her own thing. You're going to hear this afternoon her again talking about the nastiness online. Well, that's very interesting because Donald Trump, of course, is famous for very derogatory names that he calls people, cheating Obama and lying Schumer.

So she is definitely taking her own path, and why we care about this is that if she made a fuss about those affairs, it would hurt his chances in 2020.

BOLDUAN: But how much did your sources -- are they telling you that that relationship has changed since they moved to the White House?

JORDAN: Well, that's a good question because she didn't even come down I think for the first six months.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

JORDAN: And so she stayed in New York. I think the -- she was almost invisible during the campaign. Ivanka Trump, her stepdaughter, actually filled in as the surrogate, in the announcer, many times on the campaign. She doesn't like politics. She doesn't like public speaking. English is not her first language. And yet this afternoon she's kind of starting to own this role and many people wonder what kind of leverage is she going to have over the president? What is she going to be telling him because her poll numbers are higher, he needs her for re-election bid, and so it's going to be very interesting to continue watching this dynamic play out for the rest of the term.

BOLDUAN: And as they do lead separate lives, I mean, do you get any sense that when she does weigh in on policy or politics that the president listens?

JORDAN: Well, you know, all first ladies in some way have been a hidden hand there.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

JORDAN: Often the person closest to them, the person that they talk to late in the evening, the first thing in the morning, and we are hearing that she is letting her opinions known. In fact she has said that. But as she said, I tell him what I think, and sometimes he takes it and sometimes he doesn't. We know she didn't like for instance Steve Bannon. He's no longer there. We know she's told him to pay attention to this Russia investigation and that she was worried about some of his lawyers and two of the three lawyers are gone.

You know, in any marriage it's really hard to know exactly what is going on, but there are a lot of eyes on this one.

BOLDUAN: I mean, she hasn't spoken publicly, this will be the first time really that she's been out there since all this Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal stuff has been out there, the payments have been made public.

[11:45:06] Does -- do folks close to her get a sense of how she feels about this all? JORDAN: Well, everybody is reading the tea leaves. You know, she's

been very distant. Sometimes when new details are come out, she noticeably takes a different path. Everyone noticed that she didn't even go right after one bombshell announcement that detailed their private lives with the president even talking to Karen McDougal, the Playboy model, he had an alleged affair with. When that story came out, she decided not to go across the White House lawn and into the helicopter to Air Force One. She went by herself in the car.

We've seen that, her going her own way. She even went to the State of the Union in her own car. So again, we don't know, but we're reading the tea leaves.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. With everything that you've seen, do you get the sense that she likes being first lady?

JORDAN: I've talked to several people close to her and they said that she has realized that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She came to this country 22 years ago. Just 22 years ago, as an immigrant. She wanted to be a model. She came from pretty modest background. And so all of a sudden she has a staff of 100, she lives in the White House, and I'm told by people close to her that she's decided let's just make the most of it.

BOLDUAN: And let's see.

Mary, great to see you, thanks so much. And again we will see First Lady Melania Trump will be speaking at that big Rose Garden event in just a few hours. Great to see you, Mary. Thank you.

JORDAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us still, were former Israeli spies used to dig up dirt on former advisers to President Obama? Coming up next, new reports on a dark ops operation to discredit the Iran nuclear deal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:51:18] BOLDUAN: Was there an undercover effort to smear former U.S. officials and discredit the Iran nuclear deal? It's an important question right now as both the "Observer" and the "New Yorker" reporting an Israeli intelligence firm was hired to find dirt on Obama administration aides, aides who were involved in negotiating and promoting the 2015 Iran deal.

Though the publications do differ on who hired the firm to start digging, this comes just days before President Trump must decide if he will continue waiving sanctions on Iran as part of the deal.

Joining me right now with the details on all of this, Ian Lee -- CNN correspondent Ian Lee is in Jerusalem right now.

So, Ian, what are these reports detailing?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK. This is a case of international espionage intrigue that the "Observer" and the "New Yorker" are saying that Trump officials hired an Israeli intelligence company to dig up dirt on Ben Rhodes, Obama's National Security adviser, Colin Kahl, who is an aide to Obama, as well as Vice President Joe Biden.

They're also reporting that this intelligence agency was also hired to dig 2up dirt on Kahl's and Rhodes' wives. So there is a lot to being said here. Now "The Observer" and Rhodes are saying -- sorry, "The Observer" and Kahl are saying that Black Cube was hired to dig up dirt. And Black Cube, if you may remember, is the Israeli intelligence agency that worked with Harvey Weinstein to find dirt on women who were accusing him of sexual allegations.

Now Black Cube came out and apologized for that, saying they didn't intend to harm anyone, but when it comes to this case, Black Cube released a statement saying that, "Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration or to the Iran nuclear deal. Anyone who claims otherwise is misleading their readers and viewers."

The company also said that they're not needed to look up information about the Iran nuclear deal, that the CIA or the Mossad is able to do that. But they did add this caveat, Kate, that they don't discuss anything to third parties about their clients, so really who knows.

BOLDUAN: All right. Ian Lee, thank you so much.

Coming up for us, it looks like something straight out of an action movie, but it is real life and it is really happening right now in Hawaii. As a volcano continues to erupt, destroying homes, sending hundreds fleeing to safety, we're going to take you there live for an update.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:58:03] BOLDUAN: No time for sightseeing. That is the warning right now from authorities in Hawaii. It also may be the understatement of the year, quite honestly, when you see pictures like this. A massive volcanic eruption has entire communities evacuating. Hundreds of people in shelters, chased from their homes by lava and the deadly gas that are spewing from these huge cracks in the ground. Some of the eruptions were shooting hundreds of feet in the air.

On top of it, the eruptions are causing earthquakes. There have been more than a thousand, the strongest reaching a magnitude 6.9.

Stephanie Elam is in Hawaii. She's been following all this. She's joining me right now.

So, Stephanie, what is the very latest there? Is there any hope on the horizon things are going to calm down?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't look like it right now, Kate. What you're looking at are 10 fissures that have opened up. Yesterday we saw more of those fissures opening. We also know that 26 homes have been demolished by this flowing lava. And there's nothing you can do to stop lava. If it's coming, it's coming. So it's almost like in slow motion in some places where the lava is cascading around these buildings and then the buildings catch on fire and that is that.

So you're looking for these people that live in these neighborhoods, you're looking at them, waiting, it's a tedious process for them as they're standing outside, waiting to get back in, to maybe get some last-minute things that they didn't get out when they first evacuated, maybe some pets. But overall authorities want people out of there, not just because of the lava but also because of those gases you mentioned. When you smell them, they are pungent, they are strong, and they are deadly, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Is there warning, Stephanie? I mean, just thinking, when these fissures are created, is there warning it's going to happen, or are they just blasting out of the ground and then people have to run?

ELAM: That was exactly what I wanted to know. And I asked one of the officials from USGS, and they said, no, usually there is a crack, there is smoke that comes out before the lava comes out of the earth. But still, when you see that, it's a quick change and those folks have to get out of there. That is a very dangerous situation.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, and terrifying. Thank you so much, Stephanie, really appreciate it.

And thank you all so much for joining me AT THIS HOUR. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.