Return to Transcripts main page


Spicer Quits Over Hiring of New Communications Director; Mueller Asks White House to Preserve Docs Related to Don Jr.'s Russian Meeting; Witness from Firm Behind Russian Dossier Refuses to Testify. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 21, 2017 - 17:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Spicer out. White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigns after just six months on the job. This move coming as President Trump appoints a new communications director who once called him a hack politician.

[17:00:14] Pardon me? The Trump legal team is reportedly looking at ways to push back against the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Is the president considering pardons to top advisors, family members and even himself?

Do not delete. The special counsel asks the White House to preserve all communications related to Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russians, including a lawyer close to the Kremlin. Will the president's son voluntarily testify to Senate investigators?

And travel ban. The State Department bars U.S. citizens from traveling to North Korea after the mysterious death of an American student who suffered severe brain damage in North Korean custody. Why is the Kim regime now launching a new tourism site at the same time?

Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: Breaking news tonight, a new White House shake-up. Sean Spicer is stepping down as press secretary after just six months on the job. Sources tell CNN his resignation was prompted by President Trump's decision to hire Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.

Also tonight, CNN has learned exclusively of a key development in the Russia investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House to save all documents related to a controversial meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who all sat down last June with a Russian lawyer tied to the Kremlin.

Today is the deadline for Trump Jr. and Manafort to respond to a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify in its Russian probe. Chairman Chuck Grassley says he might subpoena them if they don't comply. We are covering all of that and more this hour with our guests,

including Congressman Mike McCaul. He's the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. He's also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He's also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Our correspondents and specialists are also standing by for us.

I want to go straight to the White House now and CNN's Sara Murray.

Sara Murray, this was some kind of dramatic day there.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that might be an understatement, Brianna. Look, a staff shake-up has long been rumored to be in the works, particularly when it comes to the Communications Department, but ultimately, it was President Trump's decision to make a hire rather than his decision to fire someone that led to Sean Spicer's departure.


MURRAY (voice-over): President Trump's high-profile press secretary, Sean Spicer, resigning in protest today, objecting to the president's decision to hire New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. Today, Sarah Huckabee Sanders relayed a statement from the president, predicting his former staffer has a bright future ahead. he has a bright future ahead.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: "I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities. Just look at his great television ratings."

MURRAY: The new communications director worked closely with Trump on his transition. He's seen as a strong television personality and a fierce defender of Trump as a time when his presidency is under siege.

Anthony Scaramucci was in the Oval Office today. We were talking about letting him be himself, letting him express his full identity. I think he's got some of the best political instincts in the world. Perhaps in history.

MURRAY: And he'll report directly to the president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He did a great job. He's a terrific guy.

MURRAY: In his debut at the podium today, Scaramucci defended the president's baseless claim that three million votes were cast illegally for Hillary Clinton.

SCARAMUCCI: If the president says it, OK, let me do more research on it, but my guess is that there's probably some level of truth to that.

MURRAY: Scaramucci's hire is welcomed by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka Trump. But other top officials, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and chief of staff Reince Priebus objected to the move.

Scaramucci downplayed his differences with Priebus.

SCARAMUCCI: We are a little bit like brothers, where we rough each other up once in a while.

MURRAY: And insisted a little friction was no problem.

SCARAMUCCI: We serve his interests, and so if we have a little bit of friction inside the White House as a result of that, it's OK.

MURRAY: Spicer was so firmly opposed to the move that he tendered his resignation. He told CNN today, "I wanted to give the president and the new team a clean slate." And claimed that he will stay on at the White House through August.

Today Scaramucci had only warm words for his predecessor.

SCARAMUCCI: I love the guy, and I wish him well. And I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.

MURRAY: From Spicer's first briefing at the White House podium, he adopted a combative tone and played it fast and loose with the facts. He turned to faulty statistics to defend the president's inauguration crowd size...

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.

MURRAY: ... struggled to defend the president's Twitter-happy habits...

SPICER: I'm going to let the tweet speak for itself.

MURRAY: ... downplayed an ongoing investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia...

[17:05:04] SPICER: If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection.

MURRAY: ... and sparred with the press.

SPICER: Please stop shaking your head again.

MURRAY: As Spicer prepares to depart after just six months on the job, Sarah Huckabee Sanders stepping up to the briefing room podium, leading the first on-camera briefing in nearly a month as she accepts her new title as White House press secretary.

SANDERS: Thank you. Obviously, I would have been happy.


MURRAY: Now, obviously this White House press shop has had a pretty combative relationship with the press so far. We've seen that through Sarah Huckabee Sanders and also through Sean Spicer. Today, we got a taste of how things might be different under Anthony Scaramucci. We saw his New York swagger and a little bit more at ease at the podium. Will it change the tone of those briefings? TBD, Brianna. Stay tuned.

KEILAR: TBD. Well hope springs eternal. Sara Murray at the White House, thank you.

Sean Spicer's tenure as press secretary is among the shortest on record. CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash is here with this. You actually spoke to Sean Spicer on the phone. How's he feeling?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A very brief conversation. He seemed to be OK. He sounded, as I told him, he sounded temporarily like the old Sean Spicer that you and I used to know before he became the combative guy that you saw at that -- at that podium.

But I asked him the obvious question, which is why now and why this? Why was this the straw that broke the camel's back? And his answer was, "I wanted to give the president and the new team a clean slate."

Now, he insisted to me that the president made clear to him that he wanted him to stay. But Sean said to the president, "No, you're going to bring in new people. This is the right time for you. It's the right time for me."

But let's be honest, Brianna. If things were going swimmingly in the White House and in the White House press shop, he wouldn't have left.

KEILAR: No, that's right. And you also had some exclusive reporting about a request coming from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, right, of -- of White House officials. What have you learned?

BASH: It's so fascinating that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, the president's counsel sent a letter to the White House counsel this week, asking the White House staff to save all documents relating to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer.

Now, according to a source I spoke with who read me the letter, the request pertains to any subjects discussed in the course of the meeting and also any decisions made regarding recent disclosures about the June 2016 meeting.

Now, Mueller's letter clearly connects this request to the larger Russian investigation. Here's what it said in part.

"As you are aware, the special counsel's office is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any links or coordination between the Russian government or individuals associated with the campaign of Donald Trump. Information concerning the June 2016 meeting between Donald J. Trump Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya is relevant to the investigation is relevant to the investigation."

Now, the preservation request includes text messages, e-mails, notes, voicemails, pretty much anything communication or documentation related to that June 2016 meeting, as well as anything afterwards, any communication about it afterwards.

And I should note that these requests are not uncommon and are often sent at the early stages of an investigation to ensure the documents that are relevant are not destroyed.

But this is also significant, because it is one of the first clear actions that we know about from the special counsel on his investigation, particularly as it relates to the White House.

Now, Brianna, a White House spokeswoman told me that they're not going to comment on internal communication, and the special counsel's office declined to comment.

KEILAR: It is a fascinating request. Dana Bash, thank you.

BASH: Thanks, Bri.

KEILAR: Let's get more on all of this with Republican Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas. He is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and he's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Sir, thank you so much for being with us, joining us, in fact, from Aspen, where you are away.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: That's right.

KEILAR: And I wonder if you think the challenges the White House is facing right now can be solved by something like this, just a change in the communications team. Is this a communications problem the White House is having, or is this something more substantive?

MCCAUL: Well, I think the relationship with Spicer is a strained one, and I think this may be an opportunity to have a more disciplined communications office that can stay on message. I think they've had a difficult time staying on message. It's been very distracting. And when you have an agenda and an agenda in the Congress that we've been trying to pursue, whether it be health reform, tax reform or in my expertise, national security issues.

I think it's important that the -- that Sarah Huckabee mentioned right out of the box the DHS reauthorization bill that passed on the floor just yesterday, and then out of my committee, which will authorize the department for the first time since its creation. That's actually a big deal, but it gets overshadowed by the Russia stuff.

KEILAR: But -- and I do want to talk to you more about that authorization later, but isn't part of the problem of staying on message -- or not part of it, perhaps most of it, if not all of it -- the fault of the president? So how would this -- I mean, when you're talking about that people aren't focusing on the Homeland Security Department's authorization, it's because President Trump is tweeting, not because his press shop is messing up, right?

MCCAUL: Well, I think that it is a distraction. And I think, with a new communications team in place, and perhaps with the help of the vice president, who's a very measured messenger, if you will, this can be sort of reigned in.

Now, this investigation with Bob Mueller is going to continue, as it should. I worked with Bob Mueller in the Justice Department, have a lot of respect for him and his integrity. This needs to be a full and thorough investigation, and then we need to move on.

But it seems to consume the news, and that's all we seem to talk about, when yes, I'm at this national security forum here in Aspen, and we're talking about how we're moving in on ISIS and Raqqah, how we're stopping the threat from terrorists. You know, how we're dealing with North Korea and Iran sanctions coming out of the White House. In addition to cyber-security, which we've been very engaged with the

administration on cyber-security, including China and Russia. And finally, Brianna, we will be moving a Russian sanctions package through the House in response to Crimea but also their meddling in the United States elections.

KEILAR: So the president doesn't bear any responsibility for the White House getting off message of the agenda that you want to talk about?

MCCAUL: Well, I would prefer, you know, communications coming out of the White House not always by tweets. Of course, my team usually does that for me, but that seems to be his preferred way to message.

But I think -- I think they've got to get the messaging out in a more disciplined fashion, because we in the House want to move forward with this agenda...


MCCAUL: ... that we believe is the right agenda for America.

KEILAR: Anthony Scaramucci was asked today, his first time there in the briefing room, and he was asked about the president's baseless claim that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally. This is what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you stand by some of the factual claims that have been contested that have been made by this administration? Three million illegal votes cast? Do you now endorse all those statements of fact.

SCARAMUCCI: So it's a little bit of an unfair question, because I'm not up to speed on all of that. I'm just candidly telling you that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said three million people voted illegally.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that right or not?

SCARAMUCCI: So if the president says it, OK, let me do more research on it. My guess is that there's probably some level of truth to that.


KEILAR: Does that concern you, that he's saying that there's some level of truth to that?

MCCAUL: Well, I think this has been the debate, is there any credible evidence of any fraud in the past election? There always is fraud in our elections. But what I'm more concerned about, Brianna, is the fact...

KEILAR: But to be clear, it's miniscule, right? We're not talking about 3 to 5 million votes that would have swung the popular vote for Hillary Clinton.

MCCAUL: Yes, I don't know the answer to that, to be honest with you, and I don't think a lot of people do. What I am concerned about is are the Russians and other former adversaries trying to meddle in the next election cycle...

KEILAR: You don't have a sense of...

MCCAUL: ... in 2018.

KEILAR: I'm sorry, because I do want to talk to you about that, but you don't have a sense of, really, what the problem with voter fraud is or the size of it?

MCCAUL: There -- voter fraud has existed in every election. The question is the magnitude of the scale in the last presidential, and I think that's why the president has called for this commission. I know the vice president has been involved in this. But, you know, until we get to the real facts here, it's hard to state with any clarity what the real facts are.

KEILAR: But it seems like many people in your party seem to believe that it is very much on the small, negligible side, as compared to something like 3 to 5 million, which clearly would have a tremendous impact on the outcome of an election.

MCCAUL: True. And we don't want to have voter fraud in the future. And the fact is the president won this election, and I would prefer to move forward with the policies and agenda that he has proposed that we actually agree with.

You know, taking personality -- personalities aside, we want to strengthen the military, which is what we're talking about at this national security conference. We want to strengthen our counterterrorism capability. We want to secure our border to stop illegals and potential terrorists from coming in to the country. Those are the issues we want to be talking about as House Republicans, and I think too often we get drowned out by this other static.

KEILAR: According to "The Washington Post," President Trump and his legal team have been discussing his pardoning power. You know, if he could pardon aides, family, even himself. Would pardons, to you, be an admission of some sort of guilt?

MCCAUL: Well, I do think that Sarah Huckabee Sanders discounted that today by saying they're not looking at pardoning anyone within the administration. I do think, because there is an investigation, I suppose this is a legitimate conversation to have with attorneys, but that certainly would not, in my judgment, have a very good optic to it.

KEILAR: You think it's -- why is it reasonable to have that conversation with attorneys? Six months into an administration?

MCCAUL: I think they're probably -- they're probably -- well, and it is unfortunate that, this early into an administration, we're getting overshadowed by this when there are so many important issues facing this nation that we are trying to address, both here at this conference and in the Congress and in the White House that, quite honestly, don't get reported and get overshadowed.

KEILAR: Would pardons, do you think, be seen as an attempt to obstruct justice and obstruct these investigations into the president and his associates?

MCCAUL: You know, again, I know there's an ongoing investigation. I know campaign officials are being investigated. Certainly, this meeting at Trump Tower with this Russian lawyer who had, apparently, Russian intelligence ties is concerning. That that meeting even took place in Trump Tower with some of the major principles in the campaign, that took place. You know, whether there is this collusion or whether they were just sort of duped into this meeting as the Russians often like to set up.

KEILAR: I want to ask you something in your capacity as a formal former federal prosecutor. When you hear President Trump criticizing his attorney general, the deputy attorney general, the acting FBI director, the special counsel, as well, are are you concerned about President Trump's respect for the law and for the independence of those men and for the agencies where they work?

MCCAUL: Well, I have a lot of respect for Jeff Sessions. I've worked with him in the Congress. I think he was appointed by the president.

I think right now, if it were me, I would be showing the utmost respect for the process, along the process to move forward with Bob Mueller and the special counsel investigation and have respect for justice and the FBI.

I think, having worked in that capacity for over a decade, I do have the utmost confidence that they will do their job. The question is, is there anything there? And we won't know until this investigation is completed and there may not be anything.

KEILAR: You said the respect. But does the president? He doesn't seem to have the confidence or the respect for these men and for their institutions.

MCCAUL: Well, I don't think, you know, personal attacks on good people is the right way to go here. I think to the contrary. I would be showing great respect for these men, knowing that they're going to do a very professional job; and they're trained to do this. And the sooner we can get through this and get to the bottom of it for the American people, the better. And there may be nothing there. And then we can move on.

I think the frustration for all of this is we can't even talk about how we're defeating and destroying ISIS right now as I speak in Raqqah, Syria; how we're stopping external operation threats from coming into the country, how we are ramping up our military efforts; how we are tightening up our border security. And all these things that are positive, you know, we can't seem to be able to message that because of all the distractions coming out, in some cases, out of the White House.

KEILAR: All right. Congressman, stay with me. We have much more ahead to talk to you about. We're actually getting some new information in from Capitol Hill. We'll be right back with Congressman McCaul, as well.


[17:24:04] KEILAR: We're back now with the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Representative Mike McCaul.

First, I want to get to some breaking news we have in the Russia investigation. Attorneys for one of the witnesses that the Senate Judiciary Committee wanted testimony and documents from just told the committee no.

I want to go to CNN senior congressional reporter Manu Raju. Who is this and what's happening, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. This Glenn Simpson. He's the founder of firm Fusion GPS, which of course hired Christopher Steele, that British spy, in order to investigate allegations of Russian ties with President Trump and putting together that now-infamous Russian dossier that looked at a number of allegations, Russian allegations, many of which were unsubstantiated but were serious enough that the then-FBI director, James Comey, briefed the incoming president, Donald Trump, on saying that Russians appeared to have some of this information, a lot of it untrue.

But Glenn Simpson had been asked to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday at a hearing that also was -- was expected to hear from two other very significant witnesses: Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr.

[17:25:14] But Simpson says no. The reason why he says that this request is a partisan request, his attorney says that they asked for him to appear as a pretext to try to cast doubt on efforts to look into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

He said the ask for documents is way too broad, and he said that he will not appear before this committee. He says, if he is subpoenaed, as Chuck Grassley has threatened, that he would go and actually potentially plead the Fifth Amendment.

So a very significant development here as the committee tries to move forward with its investigation.

And still, Brianna, no word back from Donald Trump Jr. or Paul Manafort if they will attend, as well, in that Wednesday hearing. They're undergoing, what we understand, some pretty active discussions behind the scenes ahead of that Wednesday testimony, and they, too, have been threatened by subpoenas from Senator Chuck Grassley. But now it looks like at least one witness won't appear. We'll see what the committee does next here, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Manu Raju, thank you for that report and we're back now with president Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas. He's the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. He's also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Sir, that do you make of that, that you have who's witnesses saying, "No, I'm not going to testify. I think this is partisan. I think this is a pretext for something."

MCCAUL: Well, this dossier, I read it, and you probably have as well. Very inflammatory, and as your commenter -- commentator pointed out, baseless in many aspects. And so I do think it's important to get to the bottom of that.

And I think it did start the president's relationship with James Comey on a very rocky road, because he was immediately shown this document which had very salacious allegations.

I would personally like to know where this British intelligence investigator came up with this information, where he got it. I think it's something that Bob Mueller will be looking into. Remember, Bob Mueller is given wide investigative powers in terms of not just domestically here in the United States but foreign counterintelligence agents overseas who can verify these allegations and this evidence, and I have every confidence Bob Mueller will do just that.

KEILAR: You said that this started the relationship with Comey in a rocky place. Do you think Comey should not have let him see the dossier and just -- I mean, is that really your suggestion?

MCCAUL: Well, I think, and I've known Jim Comey for a long time. I think what he was trying to do was let the president know that this existed, that this dossier was out there and that it could be used against him.

So I think in a way, he was trying to give the president a heads up. I think it should have been explained also, though, that it was groundless and that they didn't see any -- they're sort of baseless allegations.

So look, I'm just saying it wasn't received well by the president. I can imagine if I was presented with that kind of inflammatory stuff involving, you know, prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, that's not going to start things off on a good note.

KEILAR: No. But I imagine finding it out later and then knowing that the FBI director had it and didn't show it to you would also be troubling, as well. So...

I do want to ask you, though, about this, because we're waiting to hear if Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. are going to testify next week. They've been asked to before the Senate. What does it tell you if they declined to testify under oath?

MCCAUL: Well, they have attorneys. Oftentimes, attorneys do not want their clients testifying before Congress, being on record. They would prefer to go through an FBI investigation.

But, you know, Michael Flynn was asked to testify and asked -- requested for immunity. So what I'll be looking for, as a former prosecutor, is whether that same request is being made, you know, in this case.

KEILAR: Before I let you go, you are, as you mentioned, at the Aspen Security Forum. Tell us about where your effort standards on the reauthorization for the Department of Homeland Security. Some pretty significant developments here.

MCCAUL: It's a very significant bill. We have not reauthorized the department since the creation in 2002. Some entities like ICE, for instance, does not exist in law. So it's very important. And I've been working with the secretary very closely to have this reauthorization of the department which will help protect Americans from the dangerous terrorist threat that we face.

And so we passed this bill, 386 votes in the House. It's imperative and the President has come out very strong in support that the Senate passes support and legislation to, for the first time, reauthorize one of the most important departments in the federal government.

KEILAR: All right. Congressman, we really appreciate your time, Congressman Mike McCaul. Thank you so much for joining us.

And coming up, our correspondents and specialists are working their sources. Standby for more on today's shake-up at the White House. We'll have some new information for you. We'll also get reaction from a Democratic Member of Congress, Ruben Gallegos of the House of Representatives.


[17:35:04] KEILAR: Our breaking news is a major shake-up at the White House. Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigning today after President Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci as the new White House Communications Director. I want to get the insights of our specialist, Dana Bash. To you first, I mean, what does this -- this shakeup has a -- it's very curious on the sort of personal level with Sean Spicer, but what does this mean in the bigger picture for the White House?

BASH: Well, it means that Donald Trump or somebody has gotten to him and made him understand that he is never going to be a traditional President -- news flash. But what that means in real terms is don't try to make your White House structure even close to something that is traditional. It already was not even that close, but in terms of the communications department, I mean, they have a press shop and they had a Communications Director. Now, they have a new one but they had the sort of the traditional people in those roles, and at the end of the day, the President of the United States is his own Communications Director.

And he responds much better to people who know him well and who are frankly people that he has respect for, and those are a couple kinds of people. People who made a lot of money, people who talk his talk, people who have a lot of love for him and a lot of loyalty for him, and there are lots of reasons why Anthony Scaramucci fits that bill. I mean, one example that we haven't talked about a lot, you know, throughout the day is that my understanding is that when the Access Hollywood tape came out during the campaign, and pretty much everybody who is the traditional Republican, you know, campaign type said, you've got to drop out of the race, sir. Scaramucci said, do not do that, fight, fight, fight. And that's one of the examples of the things that the President remembers and likes.

KEILAR: Yes. His words, Scaramucci's words were not always so kind. Let's listen to what he said in August of 2015 when he criticized then-candidate Trump.


SCARAMUCCI: He's a hacked politician.


SCARAMMUCCI: He's probably going to make Elizabeth Warren his Vice Presidential nominee with comments like that. It's anti-American, it's very, very divisive. And I'll tell you who he's going to be president of, you could tell Donald I said this, the Queens County Bullies Association. You got to cut it out now and stop all this crazy rhetorics spinning everybody's --


KEILAR: Yikes. OK. So, today he sort of -- he almost said directly, I'll tell you -- Donald Trump, right, in his own -- and he apologized. You know, so is that enough? Clearly, it's enough.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: I mean, the one thing we -- so Trump does hold grudges, but then I think he also kind of likes it when he makes peace. Remember, he attacked Ben Carson during the campaign. He loved the idea that Ben Carson sort of came around. Remember, he slapped five with Jeb Bush, Low Energy Jeb. So, he likes -- I think he likes the drama of it. This is someone who is a T.V. sort of producer. He likes the sort of clash, clash, and look at the end, there was a happy ending. So, I don't think it necessarily is all that bad for Scaramucci. I think that was a little bit of theater which, frankly, Trump likes.

KEILAR: Sure. I mean, that's true.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he understands the news acting. And what you saw --

KEILAR: Scaramucci does?

BORGER: Well, and Trump. And what -- and what you saw with Scaramucci there was showmanship. And Trump is a showman. Now, I'm sure that he likes to rub it into him all the time, but, you know, Trump has hired a lot of people who said a lot of bad things about him. Maybe because he had no choice, but in this particular case, I think it's because he believes the guy loves him. And by the way, there was a lot of love on that stage, on that podium today. I said stage, but I meant podium.


KEILAR: Was this a good performance by Anthony Scaramucci today?

CILLIZZA: Performance? Yes. And I would say it's not --

KEILAR: Speaking in these terms, right?

CILLIZZA: Well, you're right. But a lot of people would critique and say, well, it's not about the performance, but there is a part of it that is about the performance because you're performing for the President of the United States. I think the President of the United States watches that and he says, to Gloria's point, this guy really loves me. This is what I'm talking about. He said that I was making free throws at Madison Square Garden with a trench coat on. Those are the things that we know he cares about. So, for Scaramucci's -- sorry, Dana. For Scaramucci's point, it helped him -- you know, it helps him with Trump. Sorry.

BASH: There's another thing that we have to remember and I think we've all sort of seen versions of this over the past two years watching Donald Trump and the ins and outs of people who are around him and how he kind of goes through phases. He is -- tends to be at his best and at his most disciplined when he is most happy with the people around him. And if he is happy with Scaramucci, then perhaps he will kind of take a breath, take a step back in his tweeting, and saying things that he is not supposed to say. And more importantly, maybe he -- if he has this kind of respect for Scaramucci, he will listen.

[17:40:00] KEILAR: Dana, Gloria, and Chris, I'm going to have to leave it there as we follow all of these breaking news. We're joined now by Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee and he's also an Iraq War veteran.

Sir, I want to move on and talk to you about what we're seeing in this Russian investigation because according to the Washington Post, President Trump and his legal team have been discussing his pardoning power, where he has the ability to do this. If he were to issue pardons, he's -- according to this report, he looked at where he could pardon aides or family members or even himself, would that to you be an admission of guilt?

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It certainly would be admission of guilt, and I warned the White House that that is crossing a line that I think will quickly take him to the route of impeachment. I used those words very, very carefully. I've not been as quick to call for impeachment, but if you're going to start issuing pardons to basically obstruct justice and cover up whatever is being covered up, I think that clearly, the only solution we have to keep the executive in check is to start impeachment proceedings.

KEILAR: OK. If President Trump took the step to fire special counsel Bob Mueller, what response do you think you would see from your Republican colleagues?

GALLEGO: Well, I would hope that they would actually do their constitutional duty and actually put the executive in check by doing two things. One, drawing up the independent counsel that we set sort of many years ago so we could actually have an independent investigation that the White House cannot shut down. And two, joint colleagues such as myself that would also be again pushing for impeachment. You cannot fire someone like Mueller who is clearly doing an independent investigation, one that is non-partisan, and to fire him just to cover up your misdeeds or to cover up whatever it may be, would create a constitutional crisis, I think, that the only way we could answer is with an impeachment proceeding.

KEILAR: The President has said that for him, it would be out of bounds for the special counsel to look into the finances of his family businesses. However, we do know, according to Bloomberg, that is happening to some degree. And also that the special counsel can access the President's tax returns, something that Americans haven't seen. Is that something the American people should also have a right to see?

GALLEGO: Absolutely. Look, we know that this President financed his campaign largely through his proceedings from his company, and we know that there's a lot of Russian oligarchs, mobsters, and very nefarious people that were buying properties and buying other Trump products to basically line the pocket of the President. If there was some collusion, there was some money laundering that occurred, we have the right to know that, we have a right to investigate it, and certainly, Mueller has the right to do that. And clearly, I think the American public have the right to actually assess whether it's something that is important to them, should it come election time also.

KEILAR: How would you read a decision by Donald Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort not to testify under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week? They've been asked to testify. There is no reply at this point in time.

GALLEGO: It wouldn't surprise me. Their whole story about what they're even meeting with the Russians in the Trump Tower is very sketchy at best. To say that they're meeting about adoption makes zero sense. The Magnitsky Act which they were meeting about has nothing to do with adoption. It has actually do with Russian sanctions. And the owners, they use the word adoptions to cover up that fact that they were probably talking about lifting Russian sanctions in exchange for something. What that something is, I don't know. But what we do know is that they should testify, they should answer, I

think clearly. They clearly have a problem with honesty. You know, Donald Trump, Jr. has revised his story three to four times at this point, and I think the best thing he could do, so that he stops lying, is just come out with the whole truth right now. If not, it's only going to get worse and he could either openly testify now or he could find himself testifying later being, you know, through a subpoena or under question from Director Mueller -- or special counsel Mueller.

KEILAR: Watching this -- watching this shake-up today at the White House, Sean Spicer resigning. We've also seen the spokesman for the outside legal team stepping aside. There have been a number of positions of movement here in recent days. What does that tell you? What are your concerns?

GALLEGO: Well, it says a couple things. Like, first of all, some of these movements are just insider baseball and I don't think anyone really cares about, you know, Sean Spicer, maybe except "Saturday Night Live". They're going to lose a very good character they can put in their shows. But it does show at least in the legal team that there -- this is a heavier situation that some of these legal experts anticipated, and that many of them are trying to basically leave before the ship starts going under. That is my interpretation.

Lastly, I also think that the President and his administration have not been very stable, and some of the -- some are best and brightest are basically trying to leave before they get tagged with being participatory or being involved with one of the most, you know, probably dysfunctional administration that this country has seen since James Buchanan.

[17:45:15] KEILAR: All right, Congressman, thank you so much. Congressman Ruben Gallego joining us from Phoenix. I do appreciate it.

GALLEGO: Thank you.

KEILAR: And coming up, a new kind of travel ban. The Trump State Department labels North Korea as too dangerous for Americans to visit. The reaction from one of a few of the people who have, basketball star Dennis Rodman, next.


[17:50:08] KEILAR: We have more ahead on today's shakeup at the White House. We're also following important news out of the State Department, which just announced that U.S. citizens soon will be forbidden from traveling to North Korea. Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. So -- and this comes, Brian, it's really interesting, just as North Korea is trying to attract foreign travelers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The timing is really very questionable here, Brianna. Tonight, the State Department declaring that Americans will be banned from traveling to North Korea starting next month. It seems to be a response to the death of Otto Warmbier. And it comes as North Korea pulls out all the stops in trying to lure outsiders to visit.


TODD: Surfers charging exuberantly into the water, sandy White beaches with enticing waves, bike tours in the country side. This isn't a travel ad for Costa Rica. These scenes are in North Korea, featured on a Web site designed to lure tourists to the secretive country. The site says the tourist industry is, quote, developing a fresh under the wise leadership of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

ELIZABETH ROSENBERG, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: North Korea is interested in normalizing its appearance internationally and encouraging people to come there as though it's your lovely East Asian, Southeast Asian beach that you'll want to go surfing at. However, that's so far from the truth.

TODD: Tonight, the Trump administration is countering the North Korean message, announcing it will ban Americans from traveling to North Korea starting in late August. Americans wanting to travel there will need special permission from the U.S. government. The State Department says it's doing this because of mounting concerns over the risk of Americans getting imprisoned by Kim's regime. The announcement comes a little more than a month after the death of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was arrested last year in Pyongyang for stealing a political poster and detained for 17 months. He was returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state. North Korea blamed it on botulism. He died just days later.

GREG SCARLATOIU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: We have to protect our own U.S. citizens. And sometimes we have to protect our own citizens from themselves. This nonsense must stop.

TODD: Analysts say tourists account for a small part of North Korea's economy. And American tourists make up a tiny fraction of that. But they say the money tourists do bring in is valuable foreign currency that goes into the pockets of Kim and his cronies, that helps pay for their missiles and nuclear warheads. That's why with images of a gleaming capital, elaborate festivals, delightful food, and rugged mountains, North Korea's tourism office is still begging people to sign up for tours.

One American tourist even saw a party on the beach and shared his video with us. When CNN visits North Korea, government minders show off ski resorts, amusement parks, even a dolphin area. North Korea has just relaunched this Web site under a new domain even in the wake of the Warmbier case.

Is this just tone deafness on their part or do they not care?

ROSENBERG: They're interested in getting the attention of the United States and by suggesting that they're a normal country that anyone can go to visit, and that will be frustrating and irritating to people the world over who understand that it's anything but true.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Now, most of the tour operators we reached out to didn't tell

us exactly what they think of the travel ban, but one of them, the general manager of Koryo Tours told us, while he finds this ban understandable, he also says it's disappointing. He says these tours promote people to people interactions between Americans and North Koreans. And taking that away, he says, is un-American -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And Brian, you've gotten a response to the travel ban from one of the most famous Americans to visit North Korea.

TODD: That's right. I just got off the phone with the representative for former NBA star Dennis Rodman who visited North Korea, and about the same time Otto Warmbier was released. They gave me a statement, reading in part, "Dennis has been on a mission for the past four years to help bring peace through sports and dialogue. It is his hope that one day the doors will be open so that both nations can coexist and strive together in peace. And for that reason, that's what makes these trips so vital in reaching this goal."

So, he seems, Brianna, to be disagreeing with this travel ban. They also told us Rodman is still planning to go back to North Korea at some point.

KEILAR: All right, Brian Todd, thank you for that report.

Breaking news next, Donald Trump, Jr. is facing a deadline to say whether he'll testify to Congressional investigators in the Russia probe, or possibly face a subpoena.

Plus, the latest on the major White House shake-up and the debut of the new Communications Director.


[17:54:40] SCARAMUCCI: The President has really good karma, OK? And the world turns back to him. He's genuinely a wonderful human being and I think as the members of Congress get to know him better and get comfortable with him, they're going to let him lead them to the right things for the American people.


KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news, resigned after six months of battling the media and defending the President, Sean Spicer is stepping down in protest as the White House Press Secretary. We are following the fallout from Mr. Trump's hiring of a new communications chief who's speaking out on day one.

Deadline, is Donald Trump, Jr. defying Senate investigators tonight in the Russia probe? We'll have the latest on whether he's agreed to testify next week as we're learning another key witness is taking the 5th.

Saving evidence, the special counsel has a new warning for the White House not to destroy any information about Trump, Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer. Stand by for CNN's exclusive reporting. And pondering pardons, the President's team is firing back. It purports that Mr. Trump is exploring his power to grant pardons.