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Manafort A Focus Of Investigation Into Trump-Russia Contacts; White House Credibility; Blistering WSJ Editorial Assails Trump's Credibility; Trump White House Battling Credibility Problem; Trump Faces Biggest Legislative Test Of His Presidency; Paul Manafort Faces New Questions On Russia Ties; Trump & The Truth; President Trump's Problem With The Truth; Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 22, 2017 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS COUMO, CNN NEW DAY HOST: President Trump's one campaign chairman Paul Manafort facing new questions about his links to Ukraine's Former President, a close Russian ally. It comes on a big day.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAYS CO-HOST: It does because it comes on the heels of FBI DIrector James Comey confirming that investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the kremlin. OK. More from CNN's Tom Foreman. Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Chris, hey Alisyn, we don't know the details of what the FBI is considering in their investigation of the so-called Russian connection but with we do know a bit about whom they are looking at.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECETARY: How many people have to say that there's nothing there before you realize there's nothing there?

FOREMAN: The administration is moving fast to put distance between President Trump and the man who is a key interest in the Russian hacking investigation. Paul Manafort.

SPICER: And obviously there's been discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.

FOREMAN: Limited? Manafort was Donald Trump's campaign chairman from May to mid-August last year, overseeing the staff, the budget and dismissing early claims by democrats that Russian hackers targeted their party's computers to tilt the election Trump's way.

PAUL MANAFORT, AMERICAN LOBBYIST AND POLITICAL CONSULTANT: They certainly are getting desperate rather early in the game.

FOREMAN: But now, a lawmaker in said he has discovered a new document in an office where Manafort worked as he advised the former Ukrainian President, Victor Yanukovych. The lawmaker says the paper looks like an invoice for $750,000 in computer parts allegedly signed with Manafort's name. A spokesman for Manafort said Manafort does not recognize the document

and it's not his signature and CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the invoice.

If it is legitimate, however, it could dovetail with the so called "Black Ledger", a longer list revealed last fall which purports to show 12.7 million in payments alongside Manafort's name. That lawmaker who found the new document believes all the money could be for undisclosed services paid for through the Ukrainian President's political party.

SERGII LESHCHENKO, UKRAINE LAWMAKER: I think it's not all money for him. It's more for his activity as well, his campaigning activities for some technical issues of his activity as a spin doctor. $12.7 million is an incredibly high amount of money. But for corrupt politicians, this was not so impressive.

FOREMAN: But why should such payments matter to the U.S. investigation of the Russian hacking scandal? Because the former Ukrainian President, Manafort's client was a kremlin ally. Even fleeing to Russia when he was driven from power. Manafort dismisses any suggestion there was a corrupt river of money flowing from the kremlin as part of a scheme to elect Donald Trump and get a more pro- Russian president in the White House.

BURNETT: Why is so it so far-fetched to blame the Russians and say the motive was to help you?

MANAFORT: It's just absurd. I don't even know what you're talking about. It's crazy.

FOREMAN: When reports came out during the republican convention that the Trump camp pushed the Republican Party and its platform to ease up on criticism of Russia for invading Ukraine, Manafort pushed back.

MANAFORT: It absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign. I don't know who everybody is, but I guarantee you --

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nobody from the Trump campaign wanted that change in the platform?

MANAFORT: No one. Zero.

FOREMAN: Amid these latest developments, Manafort's most recent statement says in part, I had no role or involvement in the cyber- attacks on the DNC. I have never spoken within any Russian government officials or anyone who claimed to have been involved. The suggestion that I have ever worked to undermine the interests of the United States is false. And yet investigators keep looking at this chain of connections from President Trump to his one-time campaign manager Manafort to the former president of Ukraine to Moscow. And wondering if they will find the longest, anything truly nefarious or just what the White House has said all along. Only a witch-hunt. Chris? Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Yes. It will be very interesting to get to the bottom of all of that. So the problems with Paul Manafort as well as the administration's trouble with sometimes telling the truth, it adds to the credibility issues for the Trump White House and in particular it may keep the president from pushing his legislative agenda. So we will talk to an adviser to the president about how he's navigating all of that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. The Trump White House is battling a major credibility issue. We got a Wall Street Journal editorial this morning, a publication not set up to bash republicans and it says this, the president clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle. Rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims if Trump doesn't show, more respect for the truth, most Americans may conclude he is a fake president. Where is that coming from and what will it's impact be? Joining us now, Anthony Scaramucci, he was part of the Trump transition team, now an informal adviser to the president. I appreciate you being on.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, ASSISTANT TO THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chris, pleasure to be here.

CUOMO: Good to see you.

SCARAMUCCI: Thanks for inviting me.

CUOMO: So, the journal, you know, guys like that that have the journal right next to your hardboiled egg in the morning.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARAMUCCI: -- super excited about candidate Trump. And so, I hear what you're saying about the journal because it's typically conservative and republican but the president represents a new brand of republican. As I mean, it's also representing a disaffect class of people that elected him to the - to the office. And so, the journal has always been more of a corporate sponsor and less of a what I would call a populous sponsor.

CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE) you're not banging his ideology.

SCARAMUCCI: I don't like the gin comment though, he is the president. These guys should settle down a little bit. Go ahead.

CUOMO: But let's talk about where it's coming from. Fear criticism of what they say but this isn't about ideology. We don't like this populism, we think this policy is wrong. They're saying this BS about the truth too often. And this is coming at him from a hundred different sources mainly because it's true, he keep saying things that have proven at best and intentionally false too often.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. And I hear what you're saying and sometimes that may be true, I mean, the president doesn't have perfect information but what I see about him working with him closely for nine or ten months and knowing him for 20 years, he's great instincts, Chris. And so, there is something there, you guys want to pretend that there isn't and that's OK but there was a FISA warrant.

CUOMO: You're talking about the wiretap?

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. That got accepted. OK. I think it was in October possibly. I don't know the exact date. I don't know you had Mike Mukasey on the show and he's also said the same thing that I'm saying. And the president has very, very good instincts, and so let's just let a little bit more time pass, OK? I was on the show a couple of weeks ago, we had the comments about the JCC. I really wish that tweet didn't go out in hindsight but it then was reflected that there were some people that worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign that were making some of those calls. And so, what I'm -- what I'm saying to you it is let's let some time pass, I trust the president, I think the American people that supported him trust the president and as he starts to roll out this agenda his popularity is going to rise.

CUOMO: Well, look, the credibility matters because people trust him. Because he has a base. Because they put their hope in him. I mean, you and I grew up with a lot of these people that voted for Trump. And it's because they wanted better. The wiretapping thing is troubling because of exactly what you say. Sometimes he has imperfect information. Not on this one. He could have picked up the phone as president of the United States and proven it. If he wanted to, what it seem he wanted, OK, Anthony, he wanted a distraction.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. But Chris, something could have happened at Trump Tower. We still don't have all the information. I think Tucker interviewed by Fox News last week and said let's give it some more time and let the information come out.

CUOMO: But he doesn't need a time. He could get the information with a phone call. He wants the time because of belabors everything else they should be looking at.

SCARAMUCCI: That's your point of view. That's not my point of view.

CUOMO: What else could be true at this point? You have the director of the FBI and the NSA say there's nothing there.

SCARAMUCCI: I think he's got a lot on his plate, right? He's cooking on five or six different stovetops right now and he's got to get the healthcare pass.

CUOMO: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: He's working on the tax legislation.

CUOMO: Sure.

SCARAMUCCI: He's rolling back these regulations that we all need to get rolled back so that we get the economy growing again.

CUOMO: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: So let's give him a little bit of time. CUOMO: The next part of that statement should be, so I don't know why

he keeps creating these bogus scenarios that distract from his own agenda. He did this, Anthony.

SCARAMUCCI: You're calling them bogus. But you see, you have --

CUOMO: The wiretapping thing is bogus.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, let's --

CUOMO: And he wasn't talking about Flynn. We both know he wasn't talking about Flynn.

SCARAMUCCI: The last time I was in the show you guys said, well, you're making allegations that may not be true. I said, I wasn't making allegations, I was at an open question about what was going on with these Jewish Community Centers and then we discovered that there was a person.

CUOMO: But this is very different.

SCARAMUCCI: But it's really not. Let me -- let me explain to you why it's not different.

CUOMO: Please.

SCARAMUCCI: OK? Let's me explain to you why it's not different. For the - he's 21 or 22 months as a politician. He's used several devices to come over the top of the mainstream media to deliver information to his base. He said a few weeks ago that he would not have been president in his opinion had he not had those devices. His instincts have been very good. Sometimes he gets some stuff wrong. I think you've gotten some stuff wrong, I know I certainly gotten some stuff wrong. As it relates to this situation I think what he said is let's let more time pass and let's see what actually happened.

CUOMO: I know but it doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

SCARAMUCCI: Let me just finish.

CUOMO: If I ever got anything wrong anywhere close to what he gets wrong on a regular basis, I would be picking up garbage somewhere.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. Yes. It sounds like you -- it sounds like you didn't vote for him, OK. But that's fine. But let me just say --

CUOMO: You don't know who I voted for, Scaramucci. Don't make it personal, make it wrong.

SCARAMUCCI: No. I said -- I said it sounds like you didn't vote for him.

CUOMO: Make your point.

SCARAMUCCI: I actually happened to vote for him and I support the guy but let me say this to you, OK? Let's let some time pass. OK. He's going to get the healthcare thing passed. Thursday I predicted there will be a vote. He'll get it passed. The republicans have to come together around the president. They may not like everything about the healthcare bill but they know they need to send a message to the markets, the American people that they made promises to the American people that put them in office, come together even if there's some philosophical differences and then I think that will be very positive for tax reform and the further legs of the stall for the president's agenda. All your --

CUOMO: Contention on his ability to (INAUDIBLE) lawmakers, the credibility issue matters, Anthony. It's what I'm asking you about.

SCARAMUCCI: I think understand. I think the president is very credible. I put a lot of trust in him. I think the Twitter stuff is probably not for you or for me. He's coming up over top of the mainstream media and the people that live in the coastal cities to deliver information to the people that voted for him.

CUOMO: But let's talk about when it's misinformation and this information.

SCARAMUCCI: You're missing one piece of the story which we have to tell the American people, one of these warrants wasn't accepted, OK? And so I don't know if phone numbers were listened to or e-mails were looked at.

CUOMO: There was no warrant that was accepted or issued on any Trump personnel. None.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. But there was a FISA warrant. I don't have it in front of me. But there's one in June that was rejected, and there's one in October that was accepted.

CUOMO: But it wasn't on any Trump personnel, it wasn't on Trump Tower. Now you guys are saying, wait a minute, Flynn got picked up on this, Flynn got picked up on surveillance. He wasn't wiretapped. It was the Russian ambassador that was being monitored. He got swept on. He wasn't in Trump Tower, he was on vacation. The facts, Anthony. The facts.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm staying with the facts. Just a little bit more time.

CUOMO: Why? Why more time? Why?

SCARAMUCCI: Why more time because what we have found --

CUOMO: He could have picked up the phone and done all of this in five minutes.

SCARAMUCCI: Use an example when I was on the show a couple of weeks ago.

CUOMO: But it's a totally different examples.

SCARAMUCCI: It is but more facts came out and I wish I --

CUOMO: Just did not resurrect the mistake that you guys made initially there. You're just picking it up in terms --

SCARAMUCCI: One level of indication there. OK? Let a little time pass.

CUOMO: Why?

SCARAMUCCI: Let's get the health --

CUOMO: Why does he deserve a time about something that provably false?

SCARAMUCCI: I think there's going to be -- I think there's going to be more relevant information. If I'm wrong, I'll come back on the show, you can have one of those little dunking things, you can throw (INAUDIBLE)

CUOMO: There's no reason to do that because it's not about disrespecting you, it's about respecting the truth.

SCARAMUCCI: I don't think I'm going to be wrong though.

CUOMO: How can you be right is what I don't understand.

SCARAMUCCI: You are in the search for the truth, I'm in the search for the truth but you know what the American people really want? Chris, they want the truth but they also want progress. OK? We got a slow growing economy, we have uncertainty about the healthcare legislation, we have uncertainty about jobs. We both know. You talk about the people you and I grew up with out on Long Island. Middle class wages are down 9.4 percent.

CUOMO: People want better.

SCARAMUCCI: (INAUDIBLE)

CUOMO: But I don't know how they're getting it with this kind of stuff.

SCARAMUCCI: He's got the capability and the skillset and team around him to make it better for those people.

CUOMO: If he gets out of his own way with these tweets. Let me ask you about something else. Another man that we both know. Paul Manafort. Spicer, I don't know where his head was when he tried to explain away who Paul Manafort is. We both know that man was brought in to save that campaign and you could argue he did just that through the convention. He was the chairman, he was real, he was central.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. I like Paul , great deal. But let me defend Sean for a second.

CUOMO: Please.

SCARAMUCCI: I think what ends up happening is you're out there as a front person for the president. You're his verbal secret service agent at the end of the day and so I think what's happening there is Sean probably doesn't know what the investigation is going to lead to and he wants to protect the president and when he used the word limited he was basically just trying to say, listen, I'm trying to shield the president from whatever could have happened if it was nefarious. Now I believe nothing happened that was nefarious. That's just my opinion. I know Paul long time, I have a lot of respect for him. I worked very closely with him. I don't think we can describe Paul's role as limited.

CUOMO: The A.P. reports this morning, what do you -- what do you make of the -- Spicer was wrong in how he described them, it was a B.S. (INAUDIBLE) his own, but what do you make of A.P. --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: -- about his contract for about $10 million or so. Paul with this man Deripaska.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. So I know --

CUOMO: Russian Aluminium Magnate.

SCARAMUCCI: Right. So I know --

CUOMO: A.P. Report.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. So I know Oleg personally and I take Paul at his word that he was working on business interests for Oleg and it wasn't tied to the Russian government. Now here's what happens in the media and here's what happens in the politics. We like throwing water balloons and eggs and tomatoes at each other and we like raising these things. As an example, I ran into the Sovereign Wealth Fund Head in Davos, Switzerland. I had a restaurant said hello to him. Some reporter reported that and now Elizabeth Warren asked for an investigation to me. I have no ties to Russia, I had no Russian money in SkyBridge Capitals funds. Last time I was in Russia was on a field trip from the London School of Economics in March of 1985. So we do a lot of ridiculous things.

CUOMO: That's you. You didn't have a contract for $10 million a year.

SCARAMUCCI: I got that but I don't think it was related to Russian politics or the kremlin. I think it was related to Oleg's business and I take Paul at his word on that because I like Paul and I know you like Paul and I think Paul is a very a decent guy with high integrity, and so let's see what happens here. And I love working for him on the campaign. I was in constant contact with him. He's a very smart guy, has great judgment. I think the president respects him and did he have those contacts 10 years ago, a decade ago, he did. Or they affiliated with the political system inside the Kremlin? I believe that they're not but I honestly don't know the answer because I wasn't there with him.

CUOMO: Anthony Scaramucci. I appreciate you working through this issues with us.

SCARAMUCCI: Great seeing you.

CUOMO: You're always welcome here.

SCARAMUCCI: Are we going to have a push-up contest on this at some point, you and me? I'm just working. I think --

CUOMO: Yes. Whatever you want.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARAMUCCI: It look you're in good shape but I think I could take you on the pushup contest.

CUOMO: It's all stress. Good to have you here. I should note, I'll keep calling at the A.P. Reporting because that's not CNN's reporting. We haven't matched it yet and Manafort calls that report a, "smear campaign." And a statement to the A.P., Manafort says, I did work with the Russian that's name (INAUDIBLE) almost a decade ago as Scaramucci just said, representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investment. My work for him did not involve representing Russian political interest. And that could wind up, Alisyn being a very meaningful distinction.

CAMEROTA: Should we do the push-up contest right now?

SCARAMUCCI: He doesn't want to have a push-up contest.

CAMEROTA: No. I think he sounded like he did want.

SCARAMUCCI: That was more spin. He does not want any of this.

CUOMO: I got the adrenaline pumping, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I know you do, Anthony.

SCARAMUCCI: (INAUDIBLE) me over the head like that.

CAMEROTA: Oh, sadly guys, we don't have time. I'm sorry, my producer is telling me we don't have time. Sorry. Coming up, we get more perspective on what President Trump is thinking when he makes wild allegations. We have two authors who know Trump better than any other reporters. They explain why they believe the president relies on false information.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: So this morning, there's a blistering Wall Street Journal editorial that questions the president's credibility. It says, in part, if President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him with the rest of the world? We're not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.

Joining us now, two men quite familiar with the president, we have Timothy O'Brien, he's the executive editor of Bloomberg View and the author of Trump Nation, The Art of Being The Donald, and Michael D'Antonio, the author of The truth About Trump. Gentlemen, great to see you. So, let me start with you, Tim. Why in the face of facts that refute his falsehoods -- I mean, demonstrably true things, there's videotape of things, there's photographic evidence. Why does President Trump stick like glue to his falsehood?

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF BLOOMBERG VIEW: Because he's got a long track record of being successful at doing this, maybe going back about 45 years. He's very good at creating his own reality and living along his own truths, whether or not they correspond with the facts, with photographs, with video, whatever. He doesn't really care. What he cares about is playing to his base and playing to himself.

CAMEROTA: I mean, and Michael that's been successful for him until he was president and there were all of these people buzzing around all sorts of journalists saying we have the evidence, we have the facts, it's worked for him.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR OF THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP: Well, to a great degree a lot of what he said in the past didn't matter. If he was selling an illusion and to some degree it was an illusory version of Donald Trump, he was always bigger, richer, more beautiful than he really was, it was OK because he was just selling steaks or water. But now he's supposed to lead the most powerful nation in the history of the world and there's consequences to what he says and this is a new kind of experience for him.

CAMEROTA: You know, some people call these lies, what he's saying, but some people -- and I want to know how you both feel about this, say no, this actually is a manifestation of the paranoia that he -- and insecurity that he's actually feeling. He watches something on Fox News say he believes it, he then repeats it and sticks to it because it aligns with his world view. How do you see it?

O'BRIEN: Well, I don't know that that's a meaningful difference. You know, he has lied, he's lied repeatedly, sometimes almost pathologically, I think the other bit of people around him have fallen into the same trap, whether it's Sean Spicer or Kellyanne Conway.

CAMEROTA: But a lie means you're doing it intentionally, you know the truth and you are intentionally saying a falsehood. Some people suggest that because of his insecurity or paranoia he believes what he's saying.

O'BRIEN: Well, the only person that's going to know at the end of the day is him.

CAMEROTA: That's right. But what's your take on it?

D'ANTONIO: But I think what you're saying is that his insides are now on the outside. That his own paranoia and anxiety and self-doubt are being projected onto the world and that this is the problem with people who believe conspiracy theories, don't feel rooted in the world, rooted in reality and he does have a problem with that. But to Tim's point for the nation at some point we have to say well, the president's psychological condition matters as a manner of health but it also matters when it comes to global security.

O'BRIEN: Whether he can exercise good judgment.

D'ANTONIO: Yes. Yes.

CAMEROTA: There's also a theory about him, I want both of your takes on it that he sees things in a very black-and-white world view. You're either on team Trump or you're not. It's quite simple. And so if you see things in that view than anyone who's not on Team Trump and by definition journalists can't be on Team Trump then you're against him.

O'BRIEN: Because the goal for Team Trump is making sure that Donald Trump gets attention, that Donald Trump is seen as flawless, and that Donald Trump is seen as peerless. That's how he sees himself, that's how he wants people around them to see him and if the media or his owned advisors aren't in lock step with that approach, they get ostracized.

D'ANTONIO: And there was an interesting interview broadcast on CNN last night from earlier in the campaign where Don Lemon was talking to Paul Manafort and basically said are you an adviser, can you influence his behavior? And Manafort said well, he takes it in but then he processes it. Well, what he does is he takes it in and then pushes it out. If it -- if information conflicts with his sense of self, he's not going to adopt that information or adapt his behavior.

CAMEROTA: So what does that mean when working with, say, congress that doesn't play by those rules? What's going to happen?

O'BRIEN: Well, I think, you know, in a normal world he would have people acting as a bridge for him to the congress. I think at the end of the day the only people he really trust in the White House right now are Ivanka and Jared. I think absent those two people who are both family members, he's always going to be --