tv At This Hour With Kate Bolduan CNN May 16, 2017 8:00am-9:01am PDT
hello, everyone. i'm kate bolduan. we are beginning with breaking news. show us the transcripts. the senate's top democrat now demanding that the white house turn over exactly what the president said to russian officials in the oval office, a meeting during which president trump is now accused of disclosing highly classified intelligence to the russian foreign minister and the russian ambassador to the united states. and moments from now, the president's national security adviser will be speaking to reporters on this unfolding crisis, going before cameras alone, solo. this was not previously scheduled to be this way. that means it's a big deal. these will be his first comments since the president may have contradicted his original
account of what happened behind closed doors. stand by for that. here's what the president has said about all of this this morning on twitter, taking to twitter to defend himself, saying this -- "as president, i wanted to share with russia at an openly scheduled white house meeting, which i have the absolute right to do. facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety, humanitarian reasons, plus i want russia to greatly step up their fight against isis and terrorism." so, where does that leave us right now, other than a lot of moving parts to follow? let's get to jessica schneider, who's following all of these twists and turns. so, jessica, what the president said this morning, does that contradict what h.r. mcmaster, his national security adviser, said just last night? >> it seems to, kate. you know, this has become sort of a common refrain within the white house. the story goes something like this. a crisis situation breaks, white house staff and administration officials scramble to address and explain it, and then the president comes out with his own version of events, seeming to contradict the previous explanation, and that really is
how it went down after the "washington post" broke that story that president trump revealed classified information to the russian foreign minister. when it happened, the white house first issued several statements, one from secretary of state rex tillerson, where he said that threats in counterterrorism were the only things discussed and not sources. then deputy national security adviser dina powell said flatly that the story was false and that president trump only discussed common threats. and then, of course, there was that brisk on-camera experience by national security adviser h.r. mcmaster. here's what he said. >> the story that came out tonight as reported is false. the president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to orr two countries, including threats to civil aviation. at no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed, and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.
two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. they're on the record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. and i was in the room. it didn't happen. >> so, a carefully worded statement there where general mcmaster barely went off script, but he only there mentioned methods and sources, saying those weren't revealed. but what we know from the extensive reporting that our team here has done, including evan perez, is that sources and methods, kate, they weren't really the main concern. our team was in touch with these u.s. officials back in march. they said even disclosing information about isis bomb-making technology and then connecting that to the laptop and electronics ban out of flights out of ten airports in the middle east, that information itself was highly classified information that if revealed could cause serious national security harm. president trump, though, in his tweets this morning not disputing that in the tweets that he may have, in fact, revealed this incredibly sensitive information to the russians when he met with them
just last week. kate? >> yeah, notably not addressing it in those tweets. we will wait to see exactly what h.r. mcmaster has to say as he prepares to take to the cameras. jessica, thank you so much. so, the reaction from capitol hill this morning? democrats call it dangerous and inexcusable, and republicans, at least right now, they are not coming to the president's defense. here's senate majority leader mitch mcconnell responding to the news on bloomberg this morning. >> well, i read the "washington post" story and i read general mcmaster's response, which tends to refute the story, rebut the story. i think we could do with a little less drama from the white house on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda. >> so, another powerful senator, bob corker, the chair of the senate foreign relations committee, he had this to say. he said this -- "the white house has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order. they're in a downward spiral,"
corker said," and they've got to go figure out a way to come to grips with all that's happening. that's not ringing endorsement. cnn correspondent phil mattingly is on capitol hill with more reaction that's really been coming in from lawmakers this morning. what are folks saying right now? >> reporter: well, no shortage of questions. a serious shortage of answers. and kind of widespread recognition in both parties that this could be a very big deal. and kate, i think kind of the key point here is it's two-fold. one, the actual issue itself, what the reports came out last night and what they mean, but also you hear a lot publicly now, what we've been hearing for weeks behind the scenes. i think that's exactly what senator bob corker was hinting at. there's extreme frustration that the white house just can't seem to get out of its own way. now, one of the big questions here is how have people on capitol hill actually been looped in on things? i want you to take a listen to what the top democrat on the senate intelligence committee told me just a short while ago. >> well, i think there's a lot of questions that need to be
answered. i'd tell you, you know, one of the things you know as a member of the intelligence committee from day one is that you always protect sources and methods. and if you don't protect those sources and methods, potentially people's lives could be at stake or the collaboration, cooperation of our allies could be at stake, and we've got a lot -- >> has the white house reached out to you to explain? >> i have not been briefed at all. >> reporter: now, kate, the interesting moment there, obviously, top democrat, the vice chairman of the senate intelligence committee still has not heard at all from the administration, and several members of both parties have repeated that same sentiment. senator chuck grassley, the top republican on the senate judiciary committee, still hasn't heard anything, didn't want to weigh in until he did. marco rubio, also a member of the intelligence committee, did tell me earlier this morning that the administration did reach out to him last night, but they didn't answer his questions, and he needs more clarity going forward. and kate, just one other thing. senator john mccain, obviously, rarely holds back when he talks about what his feelings are when it comes to this administration.
he just put out a statement saying "regretly, every moment that the president spent dlejly disclosing classified information to the russian was a moment he didn't spend talking to hem or trying to walk them away from the aggression they show." so a lot of frustration from both parties. not any senators, except for one i've spoken to, coming out and overtly supporting the president right now. and i think we're in a situation where story after story, major story after dramatic story coming out and people are both frustrated, they're tired, and frankly, they want answers, kate. >> yeah. i mean, it's notable, phil, the change in tone from republicans who might say i don't have enough information yet to comment, to what you hear from john mccain in this statement, what you read, and he also calls it deeply disturbing and sends a troubling signal to america's allies. they clearly need more information over there, and a lot of folks do. great to see you, phil. it's only just beginning this morning for you. i appreciate it. joining me to discuss, jamie metsel's here. he worked for the state department and national security council under president clinton, now a senior fellow at the
atlantic council. also with us, former presidential candidate evan mcmullin, a former cia officer. guys, great to have you hire. a lot to get through. one bit of information from jim sciut sciutto, jamie, that i found interesting, is following his meeting, his sources telling him that advisers after this meeting, advisers to the president, consulted the intelligence community to check on the classification level of the information that was discussed in the oval office meeting. you've been in those meetings. what does that tell you? >> that tells me that they were really worried. i mean, there is secret information, top-secret information and then secure, classified information. that is highest level of classification, and often it's because if that information gets out, it can put people's lives in danger, it can undermine critical relationships with foreign intelligence services, with foreign governments. and so, to leak that kind of information or just to give it away so brazenly, especially given the bad state of relations between the united states and russia is just deeply concerning
for democrats and republicans alike. >> evan, the immediate fear, as you've heard from many this morning, is that u.s. allies abroad will, simply put, say they just can't trust the united states to sharing intel anymore. former cia director leon panetta said very much that this morning. listen to this. >> the problem is, i'm not sure. obviously, presidents can do whatever they want, but what is the damage from that? the damage is that this country may cut off any kind of intelligence provided to the united states on very sensitive issues that relate to the national security of this country. that's the damage that can be done here, and the president needs to understand that. this is not just a joke. this is very serious business that relates to the security of this country. >> evan, from your point of view, how real is this fear that he lays out? >> well, it's very real, but i would say that direct oor panet
understated it. it applies to this ally who provided the information to us, but it also impacts the way other intelligence allies see us and see our intelligence-sharing relationships. they've long had concerns about donald trump as a potential president and now as a president, about his ability to protect information, his willingness to protect information, and what you see here is sort of the perfect display of the most sensitive type of information that can have real impact on americans' lives, their safety. and there he is, the president, sharing it with one of our greatest adversaries. so, there really couldn't be a better or a worse example of the kind of recklessness that we now see in the white house. and i would just add that that's only the start of it. president trump is demonstrating a terrible lack of competence, and incompetence is weakness on the international stage, and i fear that our adversaries, including russia and others, are
seeing this chaos in the white house and the lack of president trump's ability to learn the job, and we're not in the first week here. there are certain things he should understand well now. and the fact that he hasn't is communicating weakness to the rest of the world. >> so, jamie, now you have h.r. mcmaster, the national security adviser, after coming out and speaking to reporters last night, saying -- he said, "as it was reported." it was carefully reported, "the reporting is false." but it was a carefully worded statement and republicans and democrats alike today acknowledge that and kind of have been pointing to that. what does h.r. mcmaster do now? he's coming to cameras. >> yeah, well, he is really in a bind, because the whole point of h.r. mcmaster, the reason he is in the white house now is he is the person who has written the book about the military being honest in speaking with civilian officials. >> he's well respected. >> he is well respected. in his book about vietnam, he
talks about the military didn't have the courage to say what needed to be said. but it's not as if there was a big question that was yes or no. it was a bunch of very small moves, very small decisions. and h.r. mcmaster's credibility was put on the line by this statement, and he was very careful. he was mincing words, but it seems increasingly clear that something amiss is going on, not just -- not only with this statement, but in the white house more generally. this is not just a crisis for the white house. this is a crisis for the country, and we need to get to the bottom of what's happening in the white house and we need to fix it. we need to get the information and then we need to respond, but we cannot go on like this, because our country and the world will really be harmed. >> following this reporting coming out, evan, it seems that there are two options here -- either the president knew he was sharing highly classified information or he didn't. which is a bigger problem? >> they're both big problems.
you know, probably it's a bigger problem if he knew he was sharing highly classified information. that's probably a bigger problem, but not knowing is also a huge problem. i don't know. how are we in a position where we have to make that kind of decision? it's all bad. and what you see here is a dangerous cocktail of presidential incompetence, presidential lack of true concern about american national -- american security, and to add a third element, an unhealthy relationship with the russians. i think all of those things are at play here, and it's dangerous for our country. >> yeah, well, we need to stand by, everybody, jamie, evan, all of us included. we're going to stand by to hear from the president's national security adviser, h.r. mcmaster, to see if there are more answers coming out of the white house, exactly what happened in that meeting and where exactly if they will be releasing more information. thank you both very much for walking through it with me. coming up for us, even though the white house still is refusing to answer whether the president has recorded
conversations in the white house, congress now adding a new element to it, saying, forget the tapes about comey, any tapes about this russia meeting is what they want to see now. will it happen? that's next. does your makeup remover every kiss-proof,ff? cry-proof, stay-proof look? neutrogena® makeup remover does. it erases 99% of your most stubborn makeup with one towelette. need any more proof than that? neutrogena.
when did you see the sign? when i needed to create a better visitor experience. improve our workflow. attract new customers. that's when fastsigns recommended fleet graphics. yeah! now business is rolling in. get started at fastsigns.com. yeah! now business is rolling in. at where instead of payinging a befor middlemen,em. we work directly with family farms to deliver higher quality ingredients for less than you pay at the store. get $30 off at blueapron.com/cook at lincoln, we're all about making things simpler for you. like, imagine having your vehicle serviced... from the comfort of your own home. introducing complimentary lincoln pickup and delivery servicing.
because the most important luxury of all... is time. pickup and delivery servicing on the entire family of lincoln luxury vehicles including a complimentary lincoln loaner. on a perfect car, then smash it into a tree. your insurance company raises your rates. maybe you should've done more research on them. for drivers with accident forgiveness, liberty mutual won't raise your rates due to your first accident. switch and you could save $509 on auto insurance. call for a free quote today. liberty stands with you™. liberty mutual insurance. i was always "tpeople don't stare anymore. i never joined in. that wasn't fair to any of us. i was covered. i tried lots of things over the years. but i didn't give up. i kept on fighting. i found something that worked.
that still works. now? see me. see me. i found clear skin that lasts. see if cosentyx could make a difference for you- cosentyx is proven to help people with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis... ...find clear skin that can last. don't use if you're allergic to cosentyx. before starting cosentyx, you should be checked for tuberculosis. an increased risk of infections and lowered ability to fight them may occur. tell your doctor if you have an infection or symptoms. or if you have received a vaccine or plan to. if you have inflammatory bowel disease, tell your doctor if symptoms develop or worsen. serious allergic reactions may occur. see me to know... ...clear skin can last. don't hold back... ...ask your dermatologist if cosentyx can help you find clear skin that lasts.
i think i made it clear last week that the president has nothing further on that. i said i was very clear that the president would have nothing further on that last week. i made it clear what the president's position is on that issue. i've answered the question over and over again the same way. yeah, i've answered that several times. that's his position. he said that he has nothing further to add. >> of course, that's white house press secretary sean spicer, not answering questions, or very kirtley not answering questions about the possibility the president tapes conversations at the white house, a possibility, you'll remember, that the president first raised himself. with the breaking news today about the president's oval office meeting with russian officials and what he may have disclosed during that meeting, elijah cummings and john conyers are now saying if any audio exists from trump's oval office meeting with those russian diplomats, hand it over. joining me now is john dean, former white house counsel to president nixon, a central
figure in the watergate scandal and now a cnn contributor. great to see you, john. thanks for coming in. >> good morning. >> so, if tapes were important last week over donald trump's conversations with james comey, how important is it now that congress get its hands on any tapes, if they exist, from the oval office following this russia meeting? >> well, we don't have any idea of what kind of taping might or might not being undertaken by mr. trump. we know that he has a history of doing this when he was in business. i know his telephones, it's a very simple switch. these are internet-based telephones, and they are digital now, and so, there's just a switch you hit and you can record phone calls. whether they're getting the room in total team or not and have wired that, i have no idea. so, it will be interesting to see what comes out on this. >> and a lot of folks will remember that following nixon it became a lot easier, a lot more clearer for congress and the public to gain access to any tapes coming from the white house, if they exist, but here's my question. first and foremost, does the
white house have a legal responsibility to confirm or deny if tapes exist? >> i don't think they have a responsibility to admit or not admit. they might get confronted with a subpoena at some point. >> yeah. >> now, the law is not quite so clear on congress. when nixon was sued for his tapes, it was by a grand jury and by a prosecutor, and the supreme court ruled on that. the supreme court's never ruled on whether congress has that same power to reach in and get a president's recordings. so, they'll have to barter for them, more likely, than subpoena them. >> bartering for them, i would love to see how that's going to go down. on the news today, john, you have a national security adviser out last night with a carefully worded statement, trying to deny the reporting, though not really addressing the main substance of the reporting. what, then, effect does the president's words this morning have on this whole episode, when he says that as president, i wanted to share this information with russia and i have the
absolute right to do so? >> well, he does have the absolute right. the entire classification system originates from the president, while congress has adopted some statutes to protect it, he really does control it and is the ultimate authority in the executive branch. it comes out of his executive powers under the constitution. so, he appears to me to have thrown his national security adviser under the bus. i don't know what the national security adviser's going to say when he crawls out from under the bus this morning, because he's been, you know, he's been totally undercut. so, this is just this confusing chaos that from day to day this administration doesn't seem to be able to get any process where they're consistent. >> well, as former white house counsel under nixon, what kind of advice would you give to h.r. mcmaster right now? >> just keep -- i think he's a very truthful man and he has a reputation of that, and he's just got to keep calling it the
way he -- he may well have just gone around the edge, and he and trump may not be at that great of odds, so he'll have to parse it again this morning is what's going to happen. >> threading the needle, walking a fine line, whichever metaphor you want to use today, we will watch it play out live on tv. john dean, always great to have your perspective. thank you. >> thank you, kate. coming up two events we are watching for. the president's national security adviser speaking out moments from now to reporters on this new crisis facing this white house. we will bring this very important moment to you live. what is the white house saying today about what went down in that meeting with top russian officials, and what are they going to do about it now? plus, the top democrat on one of the intelligence panels investigating the president's -- the trump campaign's possible ties to russia? she is spe -- he is speaking out, saying president trump just jeopardized
national security. stay with us. we have more after o that. nobody does underwater stunts, sylvia. except me, of course. this is my stop. adios! ♪ if you're a stuntman, you cheat death. it's what you do. if you want to save fifteen percent or more on car insurance, you switch to geico. it's what you do. número uno!
whoa,i just had to push one button to join. it's like i'm in the office with you, even though i'm here. it's almost like the virtual reality of business communications. no, it's reality. intuitive one touch video conferencing is a reality. and now it's included at no additional cost with vonage business. call now and see why 3,000 companies a month are switching to vonage. business grade. people friendly.
add that premium channel, and watch the show everyone's talking about, tonight. and the bill you need to pay? do it in seconds. because we should fit into your life, not the other way around. go to xfinity.com/myaccount all right, we continue to follow breaking news. you're looking at a live picture of the white house briefing room. we are waiting right now for the president's national security adviser, h.r. mcmaster, to come to the briefing room to address reporters and take questions regarding this unfolding crisis involving what the president told top russian diplomats in the oval office last week. and this will be the first time we're going to hear from the national security adviser since the president tweeted this morning defending what -- defending that he has an absolute right to share information with the russian
officials, notably, though, not addressing the major issue of was it highly classified, what he shared with them. let's go to the white house. let's see what we're waiting for. jeff zeleny is our white house correspondent. he's there. jeff, a lot riding on this. there's a lot riding on what h.r. mcmaster is going to be presenting when he goes to cameras this morning. what are the challenges he faces? what are you expecting? >> reporter: there is, indeed, kate. particularly, let's look at the 12 hours that passed between when the national security adviser, h.r. mcmaster, talked to reporters last evening around 7:00 or so on the driveway of the white house. then this morning, between 7:00 or 8:00 or so, when the president tweeted something entirely different. so, that 12-hour period i think is something that the white house so far has struggled to answer, what changed specifically. but the credibility, of course, of this white house has been an open question week by week, and the national security adviser
certainly wants to try and put a bigger lens on this, explain exactly what happened here. but the fact that he is doing it and not the white house press secretary or anyone else from the communications staff is an acknowledgement by the white house that they know that they need to speak with one voice and explain this, not just to the american public, also to capitol hill. that is a central audience here. republicans on capitol hill who they are, you know, are frustrated by this. i am told the president has not had direct conversations yet with many leaders on capitol hill. so, having the national security adviser out there to, a, perhaps explain what he said last night, and b, put a wider lens on what happened at that meeting last week with the russian ambassador and the foreign minister is essential here. kate, it's one more example of how the president tweets something and his staff has to run out and follow up and either explain it or clean it up. >> and jeff, just a couple things as we're waiting for h.r. mcmaster to come out. he's holding it in the white
house briefing room, which always is notable. that suggests, of course, that he will be taking questions. is that your understanding? >> reporter: sure. it would be unusual to be in the white house briefing room to not answer questions. not impossible, of course. >> right. >> reporter: but he was always scheduled to be holding a briefing this afternoon as part of the daily white house press briefing to talk about the very important first overseas trip -- >> the now overshadowed overseas trip. >> exactly. so, he was always scheduled to be at briefing today, but now he will be talking about this, i am told, and i assume taking questions. it would be quite unusual to have a statement and then walk away, so i believe he wil be answering questions, but we'll have to see about that in particular. but he is someone, kate, his history so fascinating. he is a very respected leader in the military, but he wrote specifically about how leaders lie, change their stories,
credibility in the vietnam war. h is an expert in that regard, but now he is deep in the middle of these conversations. he sort of landed this job without sort of asking for it. he was the second national security adviser. mike flynn of course was the first. the russia investigation central to all of this. that's why michael flynn is not there anymore. so, he inherited some of this fray and baggage, if you will, here. now it's his role to try to clean it up or explain it. >> absolutely. jeff's standing by and let's get in a quick break. we're waiting on national security adviser h.r. mcmaster, as jeff zeleny lays out perfectly the challenges, the big job before him as he prepares himself to face the cameras, face reporters and face some very tough questions of what the president said behind closed doors with russian officials. we'll get a quick break and be right back. ? only t-mobile gives you unlimited data with taxes and fees included. that'll save you hundreds. get two lines for a hundred dollars. that's right. two lines of unlimited data. a hundred bucks. all in. and right now, we're giving you even more.
for a limited time, get a free samsung galaxy s8 when you buy one. that's two galaxy s8s for the price one! plus, two lines of unlimited data for a hundred bucks. taxes and fees included. only at t-mobile. are you one sneeze away from being voted out of the carpool? try zyrtec® it's starts working hard at hour one and works twice as hard when you take it again the next day. stick with zyrtec® and muddle no more®.
i count on my dell small for tech advice. with one phone call, i get products that suit my needs and i get back to business. ♪ we have read descriptions of the conversation. we seem to believe the president didn't issue any -- didn't reveal any sources and methods but described a fairly sensitive intelligence program that concerns the isis' ability to put laptops on computers that could be loaded up with explosives and seemed to suggest the city in which some of this was learned and so forth. so, you sit on intelligence and are familiar with the difference between revealing sources and methods, which nobody believes here happened, and describing the program in some detail.
tell me what part of this we should be concerned about and what part isn't all that concerning? >> well, what we should be concerned about -- and again, i have not yet been briefed on it, so i can only go on the basis of what's been alleged publicly and what the administration response has been. but the allegation is that the president discussed a threat to the country from isis with sufficient detail that the russians could determine what the source or method of gathering that intelligence was. so, the denials by the administration as i read them, and i'm reading admittedly between the lines, are really a form of nondenial denial, stating that the president did not discuss war plans is a bit of a non sequitur. saying that the president did not specifically comment on sources or methods is also a bit of a roos, if in fact what the president did was reveal sufficient detail that the russians could therefore conclude, reverse engineer, in a way, what the actual source was. and what's the implication of
that? well, it could compromise the source of information, so that source could dry up or go away, or if it's a human source, it could be worse. if the source is a sister intelligence agency of a friendly country, that country could decide it can't trust the united states with information, or worse, that it can't trust the president of the united states with information. that obviously has very serious repercussio repercussions, and particularly if we're talking about information about a threat to americans posed by isis. so, again, i can't say whether these allegations are accurate, but if they are -- and certainly, the president's tweets suggest that he talked about something of concern here -- we immediately have to go into damage mitigation mode, find out what steps can we take to minimize any risk to our sources, and if the damage is to our allies, what steps we can take to reassure our allies that we treasure the relationship, we
treasure the information, and we're going to work much harder to protect it in the future. and then i have to hope that someone will counsel the president about just what it means to protect closely held information and why this is so dangerous, ultimately, to our national security. >> for the interview, senator murphy, let's start with you on this. the president made an argument in his tweet this morning that basically he's trying to bring the russians over to be more active against isis. and we've certainly seen cases of presidents of both parties -- president obama, president bush -- revealed some intelligence information without the source in order to go motivate another country to help along. you might, to put it in another context, tell the chinese more about the north korean missile program if you're trying to give some urgency to the sense that
they've got to back him up on sanctions. so, could you argue that this is the kind of thing that presidents sometimes just have to do? >> well, you could argue that if you were under the belief -- [ laughter ] if you're under the belief that this white house was operating in a way that was anything other than foreign policy by improvisation. yes, you are right that in previous times, other presidents have decided to share classified information with so-called adversarie adversaries, but they only did so after consulting with the intelligence agencies and having a whole-of-government approach to declassifying that information. it was strategic. this, clearly, as far as we understand, was not strategic. and the idea that russia is going to be a responsible partner in the future of syria is belied by years and years of facts on the ground. we have been trying to get the
russians to be a meaningful partner inside syria, and they end up doing more damage than good. they end up conducting themselves in a way that kills, hurts, and maims civilians, such that more, not less, people on the ground inside syria are pushed into the camps of extremists rather than to moderates. so, we have enough experience inside syria to understand that russia is not going to be a credible partner. and you are right that there is a reasonable way to use classified information in order to win new friends or influence adversaries, but that's not what happened here. this is a president who was trying to show off how much he knew in the context of that meeting and potentially, you know, did serious jeopardy to immediate u.s. national security concerns, as we are finding out today that some of our allies are already rethinking whether or not they should share information or rethinking what kind of information they should
share with the united states. >> let me just add that chris is exactly right, and the point he's making is also far broader than this context. if you look at many of the president's statements or tweets that have an impact on foreign policy, they all have an improvisational character. some have an erratic character to them. we try to look for a method in this when there may be none. and if you look at some of the comments he's made about north korea, for example, and you ask is this some part of a clever "art of the deal" strategy of saber rattling or what not, you might conclude that it was true if this was done in concert with others in the administration in a cohesive fashion, but too often, it's not. and it looks like the president has one foreign policy and his secretary of state has another and the u.n. ambassador has the third, and no one is quite sure who to believe. and as much as we may try to rationalize it and explain it,
the reality is that we have created not a strategic ambiguity but a very nonstrategic and dangerous ambiguity about where we are, what we stand for, what we want to see happen, what our policy is. >> so, we mentioned north korea briefly. i wanted to turn to that before we get back into the russia investigation. so, the other fascinating intelligence leakage story that's going on right now -- >> all right, you're listening right there to congressman adam schiff and senator chris murphy in a panel at a democratic progressive conference that david sangor of "the new york times" is moderating this conversation. let me bring in the panel now. and i also want to draw your attention to that little box in the corner. we are waiting for the president's national security adviser, h.r. mcmaster, to brief reporters, to come and take questions from reporters in the white house briefing room about this new crisis unfolding at the white house over what the president told russian officials. did he disclose highly classified intelligence to
russian officials in his oval office meeting? running a little late at this moment, so he could come out at any moment. we're watching that play out. with me right now, kayleigh mcenany is here, cnn political commentator, contributor for "the hill" and columnist tr "above the law." keith boykin, cnn political commentator, democratic strategist and former clinton white house aide. "above the law," interesting name to be playing with. just kidding. kayleigh, the reaction you've been seeing -- your reaction first to what you've heard from the reporting, what you heard from h.r. mcmaster last night and what you read from the president this morning. >> look, h.r. mcmaster, i think it's worth remembering what congressman schiff said about him just this last february. i'm happy with the choice. i think he's a bright man, a lot of integrity, certainly very outspoken. >> i've heard that even this morning. i heard that even this morning from ben sass. ben sass says general mcmaster, he's a really, really great public servant and honorable man, but goes on to say "but when i look at mcmaster's quote, it's a pretty technical quote. i think it's actually something
quite different from a full rebuttal of the story." >> let me tell you what i think was driving mcmaster last night. he admitted, look, we did talk about threats to aviation. that was discussed in the meeti meeting. he said we didn't reveal sources and methods information. but i think what was driving mcmaster was in the very beginning of "the washington post" article, it said that intelligence was jeopardized, our sources were jeopardized, and i think h.r. mcmaster sitting in on that meeting did not have that feeling. he thought it was something worth sharing, and i think that frustration was driving him to make that very technical statement and i think further explanation will confirm that. >> what further explanation are you looking for? >> he gave a 30-second statement in front of the white house to reporters, did not take questions, did not answer any of the details of the questions that people had, didn't deny the specifics of "the washington post" story. instead denied something that was never even in the story. here's what we think we know right now, that last tuesday, donald trump fired the fbi director who was leading the investigation into the russia
story. the very next day, trump meets with the russian foreign minister and a known russian spy, the russian ambassador, kislyak, and he gives them highly classified information. and then he talks to the fbi director a few days later about the appearance or disclosure of possible tapes. we have a president who has become unhinged. we have senator susan collins just yesterday saying these are not normal times, senator bob corker saying the white house is in a downward spiral. the question now is what will republicans do about it? they have a duty, a constitutional obligation to stand up to this president and make sure he is held accountable. >> do you think the white house's credibility is on the line here, kayleigh? >> no, i don't think so. and i think it's worth reminding everyone -- >> why not? >> -- every legal scholar has said the president has a right to do this, even the "washington post" story -- >> a right to declassify is different than should -- >> phil mudd on cnn last night made an excellent point that the russians have been victims of isis attacks. we know 220 russians died on a
plane in october of 2015. so, perhaps the president declassified this to warn the russians. >> but follow that one step further, this might not have been the president's information to declassify. if this was given from an ally, this was an intelligence-sharing moment, this was intelligence that was shared with the u.s. government, so classified that it was held so tightly that they didn't even share it broadly amongst those in some of the top layers of the u.s. government. should the president be handing that out? >> look, i think if his rational is what was tweeted today, which is that i want russia on board in fighting isis, if he shows the russians, you're as much at risk as is western europe, as the united states. >> even if it means a stream of intelligence will now dry up? >> well, h.r. mcmaster seems to be convinced that it won't. he believes -- >> john mccain called it deeply disturbing and says that "regrettably, the time that president trump spent sharing sensitive information with the russians was time he did not spend on focusing on russia's aggressive behavior, including
its interference in american and european elections. >> that's before john mccain was even briefed on the meeting. >> nobody was briefed on the meeting. >> no, but senators are going to be briefed today on what happened. instead of putting out a statement before you know the facts -- >> no, that's exactly what the white house did, put out a statement. secretary of state rex tillerson put out a statement -- >> because they were in the meeting! they're they're all first-hand -- >> they all put out the statements and then donald trump comes out today and contradicts what his own white house is saying. this is not a normal white house. this is not normal behavior. and the problem is that the president of the united states is rewarding the russians. if he were making a strategic decision, as chris murphy and adam schiff just pointed out a moment ago, if you were making a strategic decision to declassify information and went through the bureaucratic process to do declassification, that would be one thing, but he just willy-nilly impromptu decided to disclose highly classified information, and this is is not what we expect from someone who
spent the entire campaign complaining about the disclosure of information from hillary clinton. >> what i'm hearing from some folks is this is part of the learning curve. maybe the president didn't know he shouldn't disclose it. at what point, kayleigh, do we hit the expiration date on that excu excuse? >> i think everyone should back up before we know the facts. john mccain was not in that meeting. you, keith, were not in that meeting. people in the meeting said it was a responsible use of information. h.r. mcmaster who democrats have been praising, said this is a response -- >> why are they contradicting -- >> they are not contradicting -- >> why is the president saying something different than the white house? >> they're not. they're saying we dealt with threats to aviation -- >> h.r. mcmaster will clear that out -- >> where are the tapes? >> do you think he should say if there are tapes, we should hand them over? >> yes. >> putting them out publicly can't be done because it's highly classified information, but i'm a little bit surprised that maybe -- however this played out, that the top intel leaders, top congressional leaders, they haven't even been briefed yet. >> and they should be briefed. and that's where transparency would help in this.
i agree that h.r. mcmaster should have taken questions last night. they're coming out with this briefing today to respond -- >> and here we are. >> here the briefing begins. sean spicer taking to the lectern. >> shortly going to be arriving to the white house, but prior to his arrival, as i promised, general mcmaster's going to give an update on the president's trip that starts this friday, and i know there are some additional questions regarding some news of the day. so, without further ado, general mcmaster. >> good morning, everybody. last week, we discussed the preside president's upcoming trip. i promised to come back and go through the schedule in more detail. i'm happy to do that today. and sean tells me there's another topic you might want to talk about as well, so i'm happy to answer questions about that after we go through the schedule here. first of all, secretary tillerson will accompany the president for most of the trip, breaking off just before the g7 meeting. and as you know, the trip will begin in saudi arabia. it's a historic trip. after an arrival ceremony in
riyadh, the president will have coffee with king salman, attend a royal banquet and hold bilateral meetings with the king, the crown prince and the deputy crown prince. he will also participate in a signing ceremony of several agreements that will further solidify u.s./saudi security and economic cooperation. that evening, the president and the first lady will join members of the saudi royal family for an official dinner. the next day, the president will hold bilateral meetings with gulf cooperation council leaders as well as broader meetings with all of the gulf state leaders. in the afternoon, he will meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 muslim countries, where he will delivering an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president's hopes for a peaceful vision of islam. kaylei . the speech is intended to
unite the broader muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate america's commitment to our muslim partners. the president will then participate in the inauguration of a new center intended to fight radicalism and promote moderation. by establishing and operating this center, our muslim friends, including saudi arabia, are taking a firm stand against extremism and those who use a perverted interpretation of religion to advance their criminal and political agendas. the president also looks forward to participating in a twitter forum with young people who will be able to live tweet his remarks to people all over the world. the president will then continue on to jerusalem where he will meet with the president and lay a wreath. the president will then deliver
remarks at the isreal museum while reaffirming the unshakeable bond with our closest ally in the middle east. later that day he will meet with prime minister netanyahu. that night the president and the first lady will join the prime minister and mrs. netanyahu for a private dinner. the following moerning he will meet the approximate in bethlehem where he will convey the eagerness to facilitate an agreement that ends the conflict and he will urge leaders to take steps that will help lead to peace. and he will visit the church and say a prayer at the western wall. the next day the president will have an audience with the pope at the vatican. he looks forward to celebrating the rich contributions of catholics to america and to the world and to discussing a range of issues of mutual concern which of which i summarized last
time. before leaving the vatican, the president will meet the cardinal secretary of state and will tour st. peter's. later that afternoon the president will meet with the king and the prime minister of belgium and the heads of state and government of the host country to the nato alliance. he'll also, though, meet the president before departing rome for brussels. the next morning the president will travel to the eu headquarters to meet with the presidents of the union and of the european counsel. he'll then hold a working lunch with the newly elected president of france whom he will meet in person for the first time. that oocafternoon he will deliv remarks to a shared struggle in front of a piece of the berlin wall and a segment of the world
trade center. he reaffirm america's commitment to the alliance and repeat his insistence that all members must share responsibility and share burden. joined by secretary mattis he will participate in the nato leaders meeting and dinner. throughout the summit he will meet with leaders including the italian prime minister. in the formal meetings he will press america's economic agenda and call for greater security cooperation. on the first night of the summit, he will also attend a concert performed by the lascala orchestra followed by a leaders dinner hosted by the president of italy. before departing italy for home, the president will speak to american and allied service men and women and and their families. he will thank them for their sacrifices that help keep us safe and recap the highlights
and accomplishments of the trip. i ask sean to call on kany of yu who have questions. >> general mcmaster, you came out to the stake out area yesterday and coming out to the stake out area you said that "the washington post" story that came out late yesterday afternoon was false. do you stick by that assertion? do you think that every element of that story is false and do you have anything to correct in terms of what you said at the podium yesterday afternoon? >> i stand by my statement that i made yesterday what i'm saying is the premise of that article is false that in any way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security. and so i think the real issue, and i think what i'd like to see really debated more, is that our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality and those releasing information to the press that could be used connected with other information available to make american citizens and others more
vulnerable. >> general, was classified -- >> sir, can you tell us if prime minister netanyahu will join president trump at the western wall and does the president believe that the western wall is part of -- >> part of his what? >> nobody. >> leaders will join president trump to the western wall. he's going to the western wall mainly in connection with the theme to connect with three of the world's great religions and to advance -- to pay homage to each of the religious sites and that we all have to be united and we have to be joined together with an agenda of tolerance and moderation. >> i just want to dig into some details of this reporting on the president's conversations with the russians. are you denying that he revealed information that was given to the u.s. by intelligence
partner? >> so what we don't do is discuss what is what isn't classified. what i will tell you is in the context of that discussion, what the president discussed with the foreign minister was appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he's engaged. >> received from an intelligence partner? >> i'm not going to be the one to confirm that sort of information that could jeopardize our security. >> that you have these type of sharing information with the u.s. that will stop sharing that information? >> i'm not concerned at all. the conversation was wholly appropriate with the conversations. >> general, have you reached out to foreign partners who might contribute such information to the u.s. and talked to them about it, tried to reassure them? if so, what was the reaction?
>> i have not and i'm not sure what conversations have been held about that. >> to what you were saying earlier, if there was nothing the president shared that he shouldn't have shared y did they contact the nsa and cia? >> i would say an over abundance of caution but i'm not sure. i've not talked to him about that. about why he reached out. >> would you understand why there would be a reason to reach out? >> i was in the room. the secretary of state was in the room as you know. the deputy assistant -- the deputy adviser for national security was in the room. and none of us felt in any way that that conversation was inappropriate. >> general, can you tell us when was the decision made to share that information with the russians? did the president spontaneously on the spot decide to give that information over or was there an
enter agency processor some kind of formal decision making process in advance of that meeting with the russians? >> as you know the president, it is wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary to advance the security of the american people. that's what he did. as to your question on had that information been shared previously, i'm not sure about that. >> when did he make the decision to share the information? >> he made the decision in the context of the conversation which was wholly appropriate. i think it's worth recapping one thing here. the president was meeting with the foreign minister about the terrorist threat. he had also raised some difficult issues. what we expected in terms of different behavior from russia and key areas like ukraine and as in syria. but then the president was emphasizing we have some common interests here. we have to work together in critical areas. we have an area of cooperation with trans national terrorist organizations. isis in particular. and an organization that had
already taken down a russian airliner and murdered over 200 people in october of 2015. and so this was the context of the conversation in which it was wholly appropriate to share what the threat was as a basis for common action and coordination. >> in the moment then? during the context of that conversation? >> i want to follow-up to the question you that didn't answer about the western wall being part of isreal. >> that sounds like a policy decision. that's the president's intention. i did answer the question in terms of what his intention is and would he go with isreaeli officials. unity in confronting a grave threat to all civilization and unity in embracing an agenda of
tolerance. >> can i get to the question that i had, please? did the president reveal a city? i mean, the spin is that the president revealed a name of the city and that gave away information that undermined an ally. >> okay. so all of you are very familiar with the threat from isis. s all of you are familiar with the territory it controls. if you were to say from where do you think a threat might come from territory that isis controls, you would probably be able to name a few cities i would think. so it was nothing that you would not know from open source reporting in terms of a source of concern. and it had all to do with operations that are already ongoing, have been made public for months. >> back to my question, was this information that we shared with the russians also the same content that was shared with our allies? and speci