Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Touts Own Accomplishments in Memorial Day Tweet; Giuliani: Trump Trying to Sway Public Opinion on Impeachment; Summit Preparations Continue Amid Uncertainty. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 28, 2018 - 17:00   ET


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: That's all for "THE LEAD" on this Memorial Day. I'm Erica Hill in for Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Brianna Keilar, who's in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:00:11] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, discredit Mueller. President Trump's lawyer admits to CNN the president's attacks on the special counsel's investigation are part of a political strategy to keep the president from being impeached. Is the president winning the P.R. battle?

Summit, maybe? Despite President Trump's conflicting messages about next month's summit with Kim Jong-un, U.S. officials now are on the ground in North Korea for planning sessions. Will the two leaders end up meeting after all?

Flash floods. Roads become raging rivers as extremely dangerous storms and water cascades through streets, triggering dozens of rescues.

Also tonight, millions of Americans are under a tropical storm warning as Alberto, the first named storm of the season, makes landfall.

And Spiderman rescue. As a young boy dangles above a Paris street, an undocumented immigrant from Mali climbs from balcony to balcony to save him. A remarkable display of courage that will make him a French citizen.

Wolf Blitzer is off tonight. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM

Tonight, the president's solemn actions on this Memorial Day are overshadowed by the latest words from his personal attorney. Rudy Giuliani tells CNN the president's attacks on Special Counsel Mueller's probe are part of a political strategy to keep the president from being impeached.

I'll get reaction from Democratic Congressman John Garamendi. And our correspondents and experts standing by.

Let's start with CNN senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.

So Pamela, this is yet another eye-opening moment of candor by Rudy Giuliani. PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right,

Brianna. And while President Trump honored fallen service members today at Arlington National Cemetery, it's clear he had other things on his mind, as well. Particularly the Russian probe.

This, as his own attorney, Rudy Giuliani, made the stunning admission that part of the strategy in undermining the Russian probe is to sway public opinion.


BROWN (voice-over): President Trump commemorating Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a very special day, and, today, our whole country thanks you, embraces you, and pledges to you, we will never forget our heroes.

BROWN: After tweeting about the holiday, while touting his own accomplishments, writing "Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country's doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for blacks and Hispanics ever, and women in 18 years. Rebuilding our military, and so much more. Nice."

Trump also attacking the Russian probe on Twitter after his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, ratcheted up the rhetoric over the weekend by saying the probe is no longer legitimate.

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: This is rigged. I mean, you've got 13 Democrats. You've got a focus on things that didn't happen -- no Russian collusion, no obstruction, just defending yourself -- and now we're into the basis of it being illegitimate.

BROWN: Giuliani arguing on Sunday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," the ongoing attacks are necessary to influence public opinion.

GIULIANI: I couldn't do it if I didn't have the material. They're giving us the material to do it.

Of course, we have to do it in defending the president.

It is for public opinion, because eventually, the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach. Members of Congress, Democratic and Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So our jury is the American -- as it should be, is the American people.

BROWN: And Giuliani is still weary of Mueller interviewing Trump.

GIULIANI: The collusion part we're pretty comfortable with, because there has been none. The obstruction part, I'm not as comfortable with. I'm not.

BROWN: Because as Giuliani suggests, Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey and his comments thereafter could be misconstrued. GIULIANI: I'm not comfortable, because it's a matter of

interpretation, not just hard and fast true, not true. If you interpret that as obstructing the investigation, as opposed to removing the guy who was doing a bad job on the recommendation, in part, of Rosenstein, but you see it as obstructing the investigation, then you can say it's obstruction.

BROWN: While Mueller has remained silent on his legal strategy, his team has brought charges against 22 people and companies, and secured five guilty pleas. And while many of those are tied to Russian interference in the U.S. election, so far, none have included potential collusion between Trump associates and Russia.

Meantime, tonight, a U.S. delegation has arrived in North Korea. The administration preparing for a potential summit after President Trump abruptly called it off last week.

TRUMP: A lot of people are working on it. It's moving along very nicely. So we're looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn't changed, and it's moving along pretty well. So we'll see what happens.


[17:05:05] BROWN: And President Trump spoke by phone with Japanese Prime Minister Abe this morning about the expected North Korea summit. According to the White House, the two leaders agreed to speak again in coordination of the summit, but Brianna, there is still a lot to be worked out before June 12, including logistics and agreements on some key issues between the U.S. and North Korea -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Sure sounds like a lot. Pamela Brown at the White House, thank you.

Not only are U.S. delegations quietly laying the ground work for that possible summit with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader had a surprise meeting of his own over the weekend. He got together with South Korea's president.

I want to bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

So Barbara, what are you hearing about behind-the-scenes preparations for this upcoming summit?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, there is a lot of action, but the question always is, what does it all adding up to? What does it mean?

First, a U.S. team on the ground in North Korea. By all accounts, they are talking to them about substance. In other words, seeing if it's even possible to develop a communique that both sides could sign after the summit. What would be included in that, of course, remains a top question, and would Kim Jong-un sign it?

There is another delegation in Singapore. That's more logistics planning, looking at hotel spaces, conference spaces, where everybody would arrive, where they would come to, where they would meet. So a lot of that is also going on.

But look, the bottom line remains unchanged. Will the summit happen, and what will be the key issue? President Trump wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons right away. North Korea, we do not know if Kim Jong-un would even think about agreeing to that -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And Barbara, when prospects for U.S.-North Korea talks initially fell apart, we saw Kim Jong-un pull out of talks with South Korea, but then there was a surprise meeting this weekend between North Korea and South Korea. Tell us about this.

STARR: Well, there was. The two leaders meeting at the DMZ, a surprise, yes, not a complete surprise, because the military that runs the DMZ was very aware that both were coming. Under the armistice agreement, any meetings there have to be notified.

So there was a bit of planning that went into this, even if it happened very quickly.

South Korean President Moon was absolutely, by all accounts, very upset by President Trump calling off the summit, so it appears that President Moon intervened at some point to try and get this thing back on track, to meet with Kim Jong-un. Again, according to the South Koreans, Kim very much appears willing to meet, anxious to meet, interested in meeting, but will President Trump be able to get a signature on the dotted line? That still remains to be seen.

KEILAR: And if they're even able to have this meeting, this Trump-Kim summit, does that mean that they will have agreed on what the goals of the meeting are?

STARR: That may be the most interesting question of all, because as you know, Brianna, you've covered this for years. When these high- level meetings happen, there is usually lower-level diplomacy between working diplomats for months before heads of state meet. This is going directly to the head of state level.

So will they be able to work something out? That is -- it's just not known. We're in uncharted territory here. There hasn't been this months of diplomatic wrangling back and forth. It's being put together very fast. It's going right to the head of state level, Mr. Trump, Kim Jong-un. And, you know, both of these guys are fairly firm in their opinions about how they want this to go, by all accounts, and we'll see who's willing to give anything, if at all.

KEILAR: If at all. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

And with us now if Democratic Congressman John Garamendi of California. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Sir, thanks for being with us.


KEILAR: Do you share this optimism of the president's that the meeting is back on track? GARAMENDI: No, I don't. But what I do share is that they're actually

doing some low-level negotiations. That's extremely important. It would be, I think, a mistake at this point to go to the June 12 meeting without a lot of the underlying work being done. Just as Barbara said, you have to have it clear as to exactly what the possibility of agreement is. If you go into it without that, it may very well blow up and never come back together again.

They're really -- really important that we get these negotiations underway, and that they be done correctly. The kind of on again, off again, on again signals to me that they're not prepared.

KEILAR: So, admittedly, this is a little backwards from the way things would normally proceed.


KEILAR: You'd have a lot of this preliminary work done ahead of time and then it would be a capstone to see President Trump and Kim Jong-un meet.


KEILAR: But we heard today from Max Baucus, the former U.S. ambassador to China, former -- under President Obama. He still thought it was a good idea for these two to meet. You seem to not share that opinion.

[17:10:04] GARAMENDI: No. No. Actually, I think it's a very good idea that they meet, but I think it's a very good idea that they know what they're going to talk about before they sit down.

Just the question of denuclearization. What does that mean? Has that been defined? And when would it actually take place, if, in fact, it means that North Korea does not have a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapon program? Those are very, very important issues right at the outset.

Also, there's a question of a peace treaty. The armistice was just a ceasefire. It was not a peace treaty. So at the moment, North Korea, South Korea, and frankly, the United Nations is at war with the -- with the North Koreans.

So we need a peace treaty. What are the terms of the peace treaty? What kind of guarantees are there of sovereignty for the North, sovereignty for the South. Both countries previously, or just several months ago, their position was that the they would overtake -- North would overtake the South, South would overtake the North. So there's some really complex but extremely important issues here.

The alternative of not negotiating is really, really bad. One is, well, we just accept that North Korea has a nuclear weapon and it could reach the United States. That's not a good alternative. The third alternative is that we go to war. Now, that's a good way to kill several hundred thousand people immediately in Seoul. So that's not a good alternative. The best alternative: negotiate, but do it correctly. Understand what

you're getting into. Lay it out. Do not put these two leaders in a position where they may both be embarrassed, and that would be a bad outcome.

KEILAR: I do want to turn to the Russian probe, since you're with us.


KEILAR: Especially to some comments that were made by the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani told Dana Bash here on CNN yesterday that the president will ultimately rely on a political strategy because. in his words, the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach, and that our jury, as it should be, is the American people. That's what he said.

What does that say to you that the president's attorney is admitting that this isn't a legal strategy; it's a P.R. strategy?

GARAMENDI: Well, he's also admitting that there's sounds -- that there are grounds for impeachment. I think that's what he's saying. And that he can't -- they can't overcome the grounds for impeachment. Therefore, they've got to go set out this public relations strategy.

Now, maybe -- well, perhaps he knows more than the general public does, in which case, or certainly more than Congress does. But the point is here that this is very much a public relations campaign that the president is running. It has nothing to do with the normal course of the investigation, the law, following the law. Apparently, they think they're above the law, and they can go whatever, may be found in the Mueller investigation.

Let's be patient here. Let Mueller do his job. Let's find out exactly what has gone on. There may be grounds for impeachment. There may not. But it sounds to me like Rudy Giuliani is saying there's grounds for impeachment; therefore, you've got to go to a public relations campaign.

KEILAR: Might he also just be saying that, because current DOJ guidelines say a sitting president can't be impeached [SIC], that really, the only avenue for taking on the president would be impeachment. Right? I mean, does he sound confident to you? Do you think that that's a fair assessment of -- on his part that the president cannot be indicted?

GARAMENDI: Well, that would be a question that will come out of the Mueller investigation. There's already been indictments. There's already been guilty pleas.

Clearly, everybody that's been paying attention knows that Russia did involve itself in the American elections, did try to suborn and involve other people in the outcome of the election, clearly had discussions with the Trump campaign. Was there collusion? Well, that's what Mueller's going to investigate. Was there obstruction of justice? That's also being investigated. Let the facts come out. Let them come out, and then we'll decide whether there is -- whether the president can or cannot be indicted.

The president certainly can be impeached. I mean, the Constitution is absolutely correct about that. Are there grounds for it? Well, apparently, Rudy Giuliani's concerned that there are grounds for it, and therefore, he's doing this public relations campaign.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman, thank you so much. Congressman John Garamendi with us this evening. We appreciate it.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

KEILAR: Still ahead, a freak storm sparking devastating flash floods as millions across the Southeast are under tropical storm warnings.

And check this out. A man climbing four stories to rescue a little boy. This is an incredible s story of risk and also reward.


[17:19:09] KEILAR: On this Memorial Day, President Trump's Twitter feed is a combination of tributes to fallen heroes and attacks targeting the Justice Department and Robert Mueller's investigation.

Over the weekend, the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told CNN that the attacks are part of a political strategy to sway public opinion against the Mueller probe and, in the long run, against impeachment.

Let's get the insight now of our panelists. Joey Jackson, to you first. Let's listen to Rudy Giuliani in his own words.


GIULIANI: It is for public opinion, because eventually, the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So our jury is the American -- as it should be, is the American people.


KEILAR: So Joey, he's admitting this is a P.R. strategy, not a legal strategy.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He is. And I have to say this, Brianna. That's about the most honesty we've heard from the White House or any affiliate of the White House, because it's absolutely true.

So let's remember that. The process drives the strategy. And we know the process.

Back in 1973, there was a memorandum, right, from the Office of Legal Counsel, and it addressed whether or not you can indict and president a sitting president. What was the answer? No.

Twenty-seven years after that in 2000, it was reaffirmed. The answer, can you indict a sitting president? No.

Mueller has said that he will follow that guidance. So to that extent, it's not going to be driven by law and the general legal channels. It will be driven by Congress.

And reminding people of the process, Brianna, we know that a majority of Congress has to vote out the articles of impeachment, and then two- thirds or 67 senators, presuming it passes the House, have to vote to convict.

And as long as the numbers stay where they are, I mean, the fact is, is that I would argue that President Trump would be immune.

Remember briefly, Brianna, when it came back to Clinton, it was complete party line vote, right? Not in the House so much. I remember five of the Democrats voted to impeach him. But when it came to the Senate, not one of the 45 senators voted to convict him.

So a lot will happen in the special or at least midterm election season. In the event the numbers change, we're speaking another story. But as it stands now, it's about the court of public opinion, and, of course, congresspersons will be informed by how their constituents feel. So I think he was honest, transparent, and absolutely correct.

KEILAR: So Sabrina Siddiqui, is the president and team just being prudent about what this battle really is?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Certainly. I think that they believe this battle, ultimately, will be waged in the court of public opinion. And I think that it's notable, if Robert Mueller were to follow what our guideline are suggesting, that a president cannot be indicted, he may, in fact, deliver a report, and that report could recommend charge against the president. He's certainly investigating more closely whether or not the president obstructed justice. But that would essentially place the matter in the hands of Congress.

And Republicans, you've seen them really rally behind the president, for the most part, with respect to his attacks on the FBI. They haven't necessarily echoed them, but they haven't sharply disagreed. They've been very muted in their criticism.

And so if Republicans are still in control of Congress, I think it's very unlikely that we would see any action taken against this president. Even Nancy Pelosi, for that matter, the House Democratic leader, she says she thinks that talking about impeachment is not a bad idea, that it's not a policy agenda, as I put it.

So I think many people do believe this is a politically-fraught issue, and it's best to leave it up to voters at the polls to decide how they choose to respond.

KEILAR: Matthew Rosenberg, as you hear Giuliani saying that he really -- he wants to undermine the special counsel, right? That's his purpose here. Is that problematic, legally, for his client? MATTHEW ROSENBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, look, you -- if it

represents obstruction, maybe it is, but you can find all the obstruction you want. If you undermine this probe, you undermine confidence in it. And they don't come up with a smoking gun that shows some kind of crime that was obstructed, then obstruction is not going to matter at all in the kind of court of public opinion.

You're going to have a lot of trouble impeaching somebody for some vague obstruction, Giuliani on TV. I think they know that. They know that. So they go, "OK, we just undermine the actual probe. They won't find any evidence of any real wrongdoing. And obstruction, people will ignore that." And it's pretty clear the strategy here, and to that, it's pretty straightforward about it.

KEILAR: The people will ignore that?

ROSENBERG: I think it's going to be hard. If you don't underlying crime, I think it's going to be really hard to make the case that, you know, telling Comey to back off Flynn represents an impeachable offense, to a lot of Americans.

KEILAR: And that's where they're working, clearly, where they're doing the work.

So John Kirby, Rudy Giuliani called the probe illegitimate. Do you worry that the president and his allies essentially poisoned the well and that there are a lot of Americans who, like Matt is saying, they're just not going to accept the findings?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. This is like giving arsenic to somebody you're trying to kill just slowly over time. They're just trying to kill any interest in anything Mueller might come out with or any credibility with what Mueller might come to the fore with.

And to me, this is really about the midterms. I mean, their -- this argument that it is not a legitimate investigation is finding purchase with a large swath of voters in this country. Obviously, Republican voters, people that support Trump.

And there are, even though there have been many Republican Congressmen and senators saying they're not going to run for reelection, a lot of them are. And they know that this is perilous ground. So I think this is exactly what it is. They're not resisting it. They're not arguing against it, because they've got re-election to worry about.

KEILAR: I want to see what you guys think about this idea of Spygate. We heard that come out of Rudy Giuliani's mouth. The president promoting this unfounded conspiracy theory that the FBI planted a spy into his presidential campaign. And we're hearing that some of the allies on Capitol Hill are indulging him, but not all of them are, not all Republicans are. Listen to Senator Marco Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I have seen no evidence that they're -- that those people were part of an investigation on the campaign. If that exists, I would want to know about it, we should all know about it, and that would be wrong, and we should -- we should do something about it.

But up until now, what I have seen is evidence that they were investigating individuals with a history of links to Russia that were concerning. And that was appropriate if that's all that happened.


[17:25:18] KEILAR: Sabrina, what do you think about that? You hear Marco Rubio saying that, and then other Republicans are -- they're indulging the president?

SIDDIQUI: Well, there's a number of Republicans who expressed a great deal of discomfort with the president's attacks on the FBI, and they certainly are not willing to stand up his claim, because it simply is unsubstantiated, that there was a spy embedded with the campaign. It looks like the FBI was using an informant to investigate these communications between members of the campaign and the Russians.

But there's a difference between just expressing some discomfort and disagreeing and more forcefully telling the president to stop these attacks against the FBI and the DOJ. And Republicans in Congress haven't been really willing to go that far. And that's when you see polling reflect that a majority of Republican voters actually do believe this is a witch hunt. They do believe that the investigation is tainted, and I think that's in part because Republicans haven't been willing to so openly criticize this president. So in some ways the president's message is resonating, and it is taking hold over the electorate.

KEILAR: If you all could stick around with me, we're going to talk more ahead. We also have some breaking weather news as a storm is making landfall on the Gulf Coast, and Maryland is declaring a state of emergency to help people there cleaning up from catastrophic floods.

We're also following those preparations for a possible North Korea- U.S. summit.


TRUMP: It's moving along very nicely, so we're looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn't changed.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And we're ack now with our panel, including Rear Admiral John Kirby.

[17:31:21] So let's talk North Korea. When you're looking at where things are right now, it seemed like the summit with Kim Jong-un and President Trump was off. Now it kind of seems to be back on. You have both sides working towards something. Is it back on track? And what do you think can come of it?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: I think they're certainly moving towards a summit. All signs appear to be still June 12.

What's interesting about this is because it's being top-down driven. Like, the leaders really want this, and they're making their teams work it out. So that gives me hope, because it's top-down, that it will actually happen.

Now, whether it happens on the 12, I don't know. There's a lot to get done before then. But, clearly, that's the focus.

I think there will be a summit, and I think they are going to try to get it done very, very soon. What's really more interesting is what they get out of it.


KIRBY: And I don't think we should come away -- we should all have, I think, a proper set of expectations going into this about what's actually going to be achieved.

KEILAR: What -- I mean, what is -- what can be achieved, Matt?

MATT ROSENBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, first of all, I think the hiccup we saw with the cancellation and it's back on is the not going to be the last hiccup we see. We know what we're dealing with here between Kim and Trump. They are -- they're their own people, I guess.

In terms of deliverables, you know, I think they're looking at, you know, some kind of framework to keep talking. You know, when can we next meet? How are we going to do this process? What's going to get us to a peace treaty? Is that something achievable?

You know, may there's an idea of setting up a liaison office somewhere in a neutral country? Third country. Maybe it's Singapore, maybe somewhere else. I think there are a lot of questions like, when we say "denuclearization" to us, that means one thing, to get rid of their nuclear weapons. To the North Koreans, that fairly well could means, well, the U.S. is gone, too. Your nuclear umbrella goes, and your military goes, and the South has to fend for itself. And North Korea has a huge conventional military. So South Koreans aren't going to be too fired up about that.

KEILAR: But can you imagine that that gets worked out here?

ROSENBERG: Oh, it's not getting worked out in that meeting. That's the start.

KEILAR: That doesn't get worked out? That's later.

ROSENBERG: The start.

KEILAR: Which is the reverse of how it normally works, right? ROSENBERG: Often. But you know, I mean, sometimes it takes -- takes

two leaders to get things going. And maybe that's what will happen here.

KEILAR: So Sabrina, when you look at the president cancelling the summit, sending a letter, did -- what effects did that have here? Did that reset things?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, I think it certainly reinforced the idea that the uncertainty when it comes to this president, the lack of predictability, is not necessarily an asset when it comes to these negotiations with Kim Jong-un.

And I do think that, with this president, what holds true today may not hold true tomorrow. And there needs to be a much greater amount of preparation going into such a high-stakes meeting. You are hearing some administration officials privately express some concern that there is not the preparation necessary to have a clear sense of what Pyongyang is willing to offer by way of concessions, what concessions is Pyongyang expecting from the United States.

There has been no indication thus far that Kim Jong-un is serious about dismantling his entire nuclear program. So if that is the expectation, which is what the president laid out in his letter, then it doesn't seem as though that is necessarily achievable in this summit. And you do run the risk of having what might amount to a very high-profile photo op than a substantive negotiation sort of peace treaty.

KEILAR: Once they, John Kirby, have this high-profile photo op, is there then pressure on to get something done on both sides in such a way that actually could imperil these discussions?

KIRBY: Yes, probably. And I think that's a good thing. I mean, you want -- again, it's being driven by the leaders, which is good, because they can pressurize their own systems, different as they may be, in unique ways.

So I mean, obviously, it remains to be seen whether the energy that's going into this summit will continue past it, but certainly, the fact that both leaders really want it, I think -- I think I'm optimistic that that kind of pressure and energy can continue.

KEILAR: When you say that this was the first of the hiccups, Matt --


KEILAR: So what do you expect the other hiccups to look like? "Oh, it's on, it's off, it's on, it's off"? Is that what you're thinking?

[17:35:03] ROSENBERG: Well, there could be some of that. I mean, let's say they have this high-profile photo op. That's not a small thing. I mean, that's a big thing. You know, even getting the two of them together.

KEILAR: Yes. ROSENBERG: We're going to see a lot over the weeks and months to

follow and maybe years. Like, you know, they had this photo, but they've done nothing yet, you know. This is taking a long time. Oh, it's off, and it's on again.

And this is going to be complicated. Even in the most calm kind of well-run process-driven administration, this would be like that. I think in this White House where it's, you know, the president waking up one morning feeling a different way, you get a whole new set of decisions, it's going to be a lot less.

KIRBY: It's the improvisation that's the problem. I've been talking to Korea experts for the last few weeks. All of them, to a one, say that Kim will come to this meeting very prepared. He'll know the details. He'll know the nuance. Arms control negotiations are the most difficult you can have, not that they're going to get into too much specifics here. But Trump can't go in there and just pull it out of his keister. I mean, you've got to be prepared.

KEILAR: Nice phrasing. Nice turn of phrase.

KIRBY: Sorry about that.

KEILAR: All right. In other news, so this is a very important day. This is Memorial Day today, John Kirby, and you had a really great piece on that a lot of people enjoyed reading today about a fallen friend, and about a picture that you keep with you.

KIRBY: I do.

KEILAR: Also about your dad, and a picture, very different picture that he kept with him. I do want to read a short passage.

You said, "It reminds me," as you're talking about this photo, which I know you're carrying with you, "of the ugly toll war demands, particularly from our soldiers and their families. It reminds me how lucky I am to have known someone like Jaimie," the woman whose picture you carry.


KEILAR: "And to live in this great country. And it reminds me to take measure of what I've done for that country and whether I could do more. It helps make every day a kind of Memorial Day. Picture that." That's how you end the piece.

Can you tell us more about Jaimie Leonard and how you choose to remember her?

KIRBY: Yes. Yes. She was an intelligence officer that worked with me on the joint staff for a little while. It was a special program that they put here in the public affairs office. The most optimistic, annoyingly optimistic person I've ever known.

She was so good at her job that when she went to Afghanistan, Afghan generals, it is said, would ask her about the tribal relations in the areas they were operating, because she was that smart about what was going on on the ground. She was mentoring some Afghans. A fight broke out between the two Afghans. One of them grabbed a gun and started shooting, and she went down pretty quickly.

But she was just an amazing individual. And I didn't know her as well as so many others. What a bright light. But I think a lot about her today. And that's what Memorial Day ought to be. There's nothing happy about it. It shouldn't be. It should be a time to sit and reflect about what people like Jaimie have done for us and the -- and the opportunities they've given us to just personally, whether you're in the service or not, just to be a better person every single day, better than you were yesterday.

KEILAR: And ask yourself, as you say, what can you do, right? Everyone.


KEILAR: All right. Thank you so much, John Kirby, Matt, Sabrina, I really appreciate it.

Coming up, torrential flood waters rush through a town where people just finished rebuilding because of another catastrophic flood. Are they going to rebuild again?

Also ahead, a rescue that you just have to see. A man climbing up balconies, four floors of a high-rise apartment to reach a little boy who is hanging on for dear life.


[17:43:02] KEILAR: The president of France today personally thanked a 22-year-old immigrant from Mali for an incredible feat of courage and also compassion.

On Saturday, Mamoudou Gassama rescued a child who was dangling from that balcony there in Paris. The boy's father had gone shopping, and neighbors next door were trying to help, but they just couldn't pull him to safety. They were too far away.

Video of the rescue, which went viral, of course, shows him quickly scaling four floors outside the apartment building as this little one dangles above him. Gassama says he wasn't afraid at the time. This is what he said, quote, "I didn't think about it. I climbed up, and God helped me."




KEILAR: It's amazing to watch, isn't it? And in addition to a a certificate there that you see, a medal, Gassama's going to be getting two very practical rewards, as well. French citizenship and also a job offer from the Paris fire brigade. He met there with the French president.

So here in the United States, we are following two weather emergencies. You have rescuers busy today in the wake of devastating flash floods in Maryland. These torrential rains sent muddy water cascading through Ellicott City, sweeping away cars, destroying homes and businesses that had just been rebuilt after a similar flood two years ago. One man was swept away. He has yet to be found.

Also breaking tonight, 30 million people in the Southeastern areas are affected by flood watches as Alberto, the first named storm of the season, is coming ashore. I want to bring in CNN meteorologist Tom Sater to talk about that.

Let's start with Maryland, Tom. How high did these flood levels get?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, we hit an all-time record high crest on the Patapsco River. When you think about the history here --