Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Close Friend Tom Barrack Interviewed By Mueller; Trump Knew Of Porn Star Payoff Months Before His Denial; Giuliani's History Of Pushing Conspiracy Theories; Hawaii Volcano Spewing Lava And Toxic Gas; Conservative Media Calls Out Trump; Sanders Struggles To Maintain Credibility Amid Trump Scandals; Parkland Student: Trump Is A Professional Liar. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 5, 2017 - 15:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being here.

Our breaking news in the Russia probe and it involves the man who is perhaps the single closest person to the President outside of his immediate family. CNN has learned that Trump's long time friend Tom Barrack, was interviewed back Robert Mueller special counsel team back in December. And I want to get right to CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House with more details.

Boris, put this news into context for us.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana. Yes, this is certainly notable. This coming from my colleague Gloria Borger, she spoke to a close source familiar with the matter who indicates that Tom Barrack was interviewed by the special counsel back in December of last year. This is notable in part because of his proximity to President Trump.

He's known him for some 40 years. He actually served as the Chairman of the Inaugural Council. He was considered for a senior role within the administration that ultimately he did not take. He also introduced Donald Trump to Paul Manafort, a very central figure in the Russia investigation. Someone who has been accused of a litany of fraud charges, financial crimes by the special council. Of course, Manafort has denied all of them.

He's also close with Rick Gates. A source indicating that the two of them have become close during the campaign. Gates has pleaded guilty to very similar crimes that Manafort is accused of. And from this source, we understand that that was the focus of his interview with the special council, the relationship between Tom Barrack, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

We are told that he was not asked about his relationship with the President or his role on the Inaugural Committee. Further, we understand that he was told he was not a target of the investigation, Ana. CABRERA: And, Boris, all of this is happening as there's a new report in the New York Times involving the President and when he knew about that hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. Give us the latest.

CABRERA: Yes. There were sources who've told the New York Times that the president has long known about the deal struck between Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, something that the president on multiple occasions has denied. Sarah Sanders famously having to walk back some of her previous comments this week, saying she gave the best information that she knew when it came to that. Rudy Giuliani essentially contradicted the President on Fox news this week, saying that Michael Cohen was reimbursed. So now, it leads to a series of questions about exactly when the President was told about this hush money agreement, whether he knew when he reimburse Michael Cohen that that money was going toward that agreement with Stormy Daniels.

And I bring up Michael Cohen in part because of other news from the Wall Street Journal, really detailing sort of his activity during the campaign. Other is reporting in the journal that cites public records that indicate that Michael Cohen took out extra lines of credit as President Trump's political career was taking off. And he was apparently seeking to protect the president than candidate Trump from allegations that could be harmful similar to those made by Stormy Daniels. You see in November of 2015, he took out a certain about of money, same in February, totalling some $770,000 plus.

Notably, Rudy Giuliani was cited in the New York Times acknowledging that certain payments were made to Michael Cohen, somewhere in the vicinity of 460,000 to 470,000 for some necessary expenditures that he made. We're still digging to find out exactly what those expenditures were, but let's point out again the hush money payment that was made to Stormy Daniels was $130,000. So what was the rest of that money for, Ana?

CABRERA: Yes, more questions, more pieces of the puzzle. Boris Sanchez at the White House for us, thank you.

I want to bring in our legal experts now, Caroline Polisi, a federal and white collar criminal defense attorney, and Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor.

So, Renato, first, on this news about Tom Barrack, what does it say about the progress in the special council prove that he's now interviewing one of his President's closest friends, the chairman of the Inaugural Committee?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, thank you that's exactly how prosecutors work, Ana. They start with their cooperators, so in this case Rick Gates is now cooperating with Robert Mueller. Mueller, you can assume at this point knows everything that Gates knows, has interviewed gates many times. And now he's working outward from Gates.

So now, you know, he's taking the knowledge he has from Gates and he's talking to people who were connections between Gates and some of the other people he's investigating. In this case, you know, this gentleman was a connection between Gates and the President. And what it tells me is that, Mueller is trying to build a case out from Gates. He believe that there's some potential criminal activity that Gates is aware off, that's why Gates got that cooperation deal, and he maybe trying to built against the President.

CABRERA: And when he didn't ask about the President specifically though, does that suggest otherwise?

MARIOTTI: Not necessarily. What it suggests to me is that, you know, he's asking questions potentially about financial transactions, about dealings with the campaign. It doesn't you know, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. At that point, I think, you know, it suggest that he's honed in on very specific crimes. And we just don't have enough information based on what you said, to know exactly what those are.

[15:05:08] CABRERA: Caroline, on this issue of the Stormy Daniels payment, this new New York Times reporting, that President Trump knew about that payment months before he denied publicly knowing about that payment. Does the timing of when he knew and what he said matter?

CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It really does matter, and I think that's why you saw Giuliani come out with this extraordinary walk back statement. Really refuting what he had said previously on Hannity in "Fox & Friends" which is that, you know. You know, Giuliani's statement about the President's knowledge of the timing didn't go to, I mean, it was kind of a muddled statement, but wasn't an accurate representation of the President's sort of state of mind and knowledge.

So that -- so when you talk about state of mind, that goes to, you know, an idea in prosecution that you have to have a guilty conscience. So if you knew about the payment when it was made, that goes to the campaign finance law violations.

So what Giuliani was doing was trying to "exculpate" Michael Cohen, get him off the hook from the federal election law violation by saying that he was repaid for this loan. But then also, at the same time, "exculpate" Trump by saying that, well, he knew about the loan but he didn't really know about it, how we knew about it with, there is essentially a slash fund, a $35,000 a month retainer fee that he paid Michael Cohen just to sort of indiscriminately use to pay off the (inaudible) stuff like this.

Just to take -- you know, he's a fixer, take care of things. So he knew that it was reimbursed in one sense, but he didn't know the specifics of it. So they're trying to have to quits (ph).

CABRERA: Did Giuliani clean it up a little bit?

POLISI: No, oh, absolutely not. He muddied the water further and further. You see this in the multiple walk backs. It's never a good look when a client and an attorney aren't on the same page.

CABRERA: Let's play that walk back for us. We have Rudy Giuliani offering the two explanations as to why the payment was made. Listen to the first one.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Imagine if that came out on October 15th, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.


CABRERA: OK. And then here's the statement he made to followup on that. He says there is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President's family. It would have been done in any event whether he was a candidate or not.

So, Renato, he's certainly implied initially that it would have been horrible news had this news or allegation gotten out during the campaign, but then he said, it didn't really matter the timing. Do you have any more clarity on what actually happened and why this payment was made?

MARIOTTI: Well, what Giuliani is trying to do is he actually trying to rebuild what would have been a good defense. You know, frankly, a good defense here is very much the defense that john Edwards have when he was facing the same sort of charge, which is that there are lots of reasons why you want to keep an affair silent. You don't want your wife to know, you know don't want the public embarrassment.

And, really, you know, that was a fairly good defense that Trump had. Giuliani's off hand remark about the state of the election and, you know, the timing of that payment really helped the government tie that into the campaign finance violation. And what's Giuliani was trying to do I think elsewhere in that statement. He said he was only speaking for himself. Those were his observations not the President's.

You know, he wants to make sure his statements don't ultimately harm the President, because as the president's lawyer, typically his statements can be used against the President. He's acting on the President's behalf. And so, you know, that statement would be very damaging if it could be used against the President, because it suggests that the payment was really done in order to help the campaign.

CABRERA: I want to get to the other big news in the last 24 hours or so. Many are seeing the comments made by a federal judge out in Virginia, as a potential blow to Robert Mueller's team. It was that a proceeding and the bank brought case against Paul Manafort, the judge went after the prosecution saying, he thinks this is really all about getting Manafort to flip on President Trump, a comment that the President himself seized upon. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Judge T.S. Ellis, who is really something very special I hear from many standpoints. He's a respected person, suggested the charges before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia were just part to Mueller team's design to pressure Mr. Manafort into giving up information on President Donald Trump or at least in the campaign.

Then, how does this have anything to do with the campaign, the judge asked. Let me tell you, folks. We're all fighting battles but I love fighting these battles. It's really --


CABRERA: Caroline, as I read those some of the other questions that judge say no one has unfettered power, prosecution or impeachment. That's what you're interested in. I mean, how big of a setback would this be for the special counsel?

POLISI: This is huge, quite frankly. This is the first time we've ever seen in a court of law, a questioning of Robert Mueller, the scope of this Russia investigation. It took a lot of us by surprise, quite frankly. Judges aren't usually that candid in open court. And I think it really does call into question the entirety of the sincerity of the prosecution, this specific Manafort prosecution.

[15:10:06] Of course, it has nothing to do with the bigger Russia issue, I think that the vernacular to judge you, to actually was, you know, you're trying to get him to sing, which is in my line of work something we call when you get people to flip, right? So they're trying to get leverage over Manafort, because ultimately, this judge, T.S. Ellis, who by the way is notoriously conservative in the Eastern District of Virginia.

CABRERA: Appointed by Ronald Reagan.

POLISI: Correct. You know, the idea being that this is all part of a larger scheme to get Manafort to flip. And I will note that he pointed out that, you know, Manafort, excuse me. That Mueller referred, the SNMY prosecution of Michael Cohen to the FCNY, because, you know, it didn't have to do with ambit of the Russian investigation.

He also ordered sort of reduction of this memo, this bomb sell August memo that Rod Rosenstein had drafted. We've seen drafts of it come out in the Manafort cases previously. But this is the first time the judge said, hey, I'm going to have read the entirety of this memo, in camera by the way, Ana. So we may not see that meaning, only he can see it sort of privately. If I had to guess, I'd say we'll get a leaked version at some point.

CABRERA: I'll give you the final thought, Renato, on this judge's comment.

MARIOTTI: Well, this judge is known for making all sorts of remarks. I don't think it necessarily means that he's going to rule against Mueller. It's really I think ill-advised in this case. You know, judges generally know particularly in a high profile case, careful about what you say. The things you're speculating on actually have absolutely nothing to do with the legal ruling that he's going to make. It's irrelevant what Mueller's motives are. It's irrelevant when a prosecutor's motives are when they bring the case. What matters is whether within the scope of his authority, and it is here and realistically, you know, even if he found that this was within the scope of Mueller's authority, all he would do is dismiss the indictment without prejudice in another piece of the DOJ would end up bringing the same indictment.

CABRERA: All right. Renato and Caroline, thank you both for your expertise and your opinions.

Coming up, the President's new attorney Rudy Giuliani and his history of pushing conspiracy theory, from claims of voter fraud to Hillary Clinton hiding a serious illness.


GIULIANI: I've seen her lifted on to airplanes, and I don't know what's wrong with her.


CABRERA: Plus, a river of lava, toxic gas, and hundreds of earthquakes, we go live to Hawaii's big island after a volcanic eruption. And a survivor of the Parkland shooting slamming the President as a professional liar after Trump's speech to the NRA.


[15:16:58] TRUMP: You know, you're really beautiful. A woman that looks like that has to have her own special scent.

GUILIANI: Oh thank you. Maybe I could so much sort of this scent.

TRUMP: So get this, that was Donald Trump, you knew that, and Rudy Giuliani performing a fundraising skit together way back in 2007. These two men have known each other for decades, and Giuliani says there's not daylight between him and the President now that he works as his attorney. Still, sources tells CNN, Giuliani's media place this week and the controversial statements he made about Stormy Daniels and the Russia investigation caught many in the white House off guard. But maybe they shouldn't have.

CNN'S Alex Marquardt explains.


GIULIANI: It's time to make America one again, one America.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a performance that solidified Rudy Giuliani's place among the most fervent Trump surrogates.

GIULIANI: Who would trust Hillary Clinton to protect them? I would. MARQUARDT: The former New York City mayor at the 2016 Republican National Convention lasting Hillary and stoking fears about ISIS terrorism.

GIULIANI: Operatives who are terrorists, who are going to come to Western Europe and come here and kill us.

MARQUARDT: Just one installment in a year's long series of bombastic, conspiratorial and often downright false statements.

A month later in a speech in which he talked about the terror attacks on 9/11, happened during the Bush administration years, he said this.

GIULIANI: By the way, under those eight years, before Obama came along, we didn't have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States.

MARQUARDT: A month after that, fueling the conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was hiding a serious illness.

GIULIANI: I have eight times online since January, in which she's had massive coughing fits, in which she couldn't complete her speech. I've seen her lifted on to airplanes, and I don't know what was wrong with her.

MARQUARDT: Clinton was a frequent target during the 2016 campaign.

GIULIANI: This is the most anti-police, anti-law enforcement convention I've even seen in my whole life. Hillary Clinton didn't want uniformed police officers on the convention floor.

MARQUARDT: A claim the Philadelphia Police Department shot down.

Giuliani has never been known to shy away from sensitive issues like race.

GIULIANI: When you say black lives matter, that's inherently racist. Black lives matter, white lives matter, Asian lives matter, Hispanic lives matter. That's anti-American and it's racist.

MARQUARDT: In lockstep with Trump's talking point, Giuliani ramped up accusations of vote rigging.

GIULIANI: You want me to tell me that I think the election in Philadelphia and Chicago is going to be fair? I would be a moron to say that.

MARQUARDT: And that the campaign's lowest point, he rushed to the candidate's defense after the infamous access Hollywood tape..

GIULIANI: This is talk, and gosh almighty, you know, he who hasn't sinned throw the first stone here.

MARQUARDT: Alex Marquardt, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [15:20:02] CABRERA: Joining us now Andrew Kirtzman. He is the He's the author of the book "Rudy Giuliani: Emperor of the City". Andrew, good to see you.

You know Giuliani well, obviously, do you see a shift from the man who rose to prominence of the hard charging prosecution in America's mayor during 9/11?

ANDREW KIRTZMAN, AUTHOR: Sure. Well, Giuliani kind of led a charmed life in -- from the beginning of his career, through say 2008 during his disastrous run for president. And I think ever since then he's been casting about for an identity relevance on the national scene, and often without luck.

And it was until he found Donald Trump, that he kind of found his -- I wouldn't say found his voice, which has become somewhat shrill, but rather found his place. And once he kind of lined up with Donald Trump, he, you know, he went full out in. In a way that I think has damaged his credibility.

I mean, Giuliani was a hero of 9/11, an American hero. And I think that he's tarnished his legacy in recent years.

CABRERA: He went from being a bipartisan figure to a more polarizing figure in the process. Here is Giuliani just recently now talking about negotiating conditions for a sit down interview with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.


GIULIANI: Never be on two or three hours, it won't happen. I think Jay and I will insist that they're going to have to treat him the same way as Clinton, 2.5 hours, we end, we walk out. Give us your questions in advance. He's ready to.


CABRERA: And this is how Giuliani, the lawyer, fights or is this Giuliani the politician at work?

KIRTZMAN: Right. I think it is Giuliani the politician at work. I mean, Giuliani was always kind of bombastic and confrontational as a mayor, as a prosecutor. But there was always a method to his madness, there was always a strategy. And he was a brilliant strategist, even though he rubbed people the wrong way.

You know, I can't make sense of the strategy behind that interview. I mean, he did a huge amount of damage, embarrassed the President, he embarrassed himself. And I think he's weakened the hand with Mueller. I mean, I think it was absolutely setback for Trump. And you have to wonder now how Trump is feeling about Giuliani.

And whether or not he's kind of the savior that kind of have the weight, who was going to marched in and kind of taken meeting with Mueller. And kind of end the investigation after a week or two. I mean, Giuliani has been damaged. And I think the reason for his coming in which was his gravitas has been diminish.

CABRERA: As we showed, he and Trump are close. Their relationship as noted goes way back. They even seem to speak a similar language.


CABRERA: Listen.



TRUMP: They have a witch hunt against the president of the United States going on.

GIULIANI: This has become a witch hunt like the President said.

TRUMP: Our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia.

GIULIANI: This is a Justice Department completely unhinged and out of control.

TRUMP: Fake news, folks, fake news.

GIULIANI: Russian collusion is a total fake news.

TRUMP: Comey is a liar and a leaker.

GIULIANI: The leaker in chief.

TRUMP: with the exception of the late great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office.

GIULIANI: I believe he's one of the best presidents we've ever had.


CABRERA: So, Andrew, what do you think is at the core of this bond between Giuliani and Trump? Is it simply their backgrounds as New Yorkers or something else?

KIRTZMAN: Right. Well, you know, they do both have kind of a similar background as you said. They're both kind of outer borrow, hard scrabble, take no prisoners kind of people. I mean, they're simpatico and I think that one of the major reasons that Trump hired Giuliani was not just to be his lawyer, but his confidant.

And, you know, Giuliani's going way too far. He's crossing the line and damaging his credibility. You know,, it's unfortunate.

I mean, I've been wondering from the beginning of this whole thing how things were going to go between Giuliani and Trump. And, you know, Giuliani wanted Trump's job, he ran for president. I wonder whether sometimes Giuliani wonders, well, you know, whether he should be giving orders to Trump as opposed to the other way around. And these are two kind of alpha males who, I don't know what the long term prospects are for this relationship.

For now, they seem to be kind of ginning each other up. And one last question I have is, whether Giuliani is going to kind of wind Trump up and advice that he fire Mueller, which is what the rest of the people around trump have been trying eagerly to prevent Trump from doing.

[15:25:08] CABRERA: It will be so interesting. You posed so many more questions about what Giuliani's end game for one, could he upstage Trump, and if that happens, what is his fate. Andrew Kirtzman, I'm sure we'll have you back and we can continue the discussion, thank you so much.

Coming up, curtain of fire, a Hawaii volcano erupts, spewing lava and toxic gas, the threat isn't over.


[15:30:05] CABRERA: Just look at that molten hot lava shooting up from the ground on Hawaii's Big Island. These random fissures are feet from our cameras, are the biggest fear for residents following the eruption of infamous Kilauea Volcano.

And take a look at this astounding time lapse video, capturing the scale and spread of this lava. One resident described it as a curtain of fire. Another says eruptions have been as high as 100 feet. Making matters worse, more than 450 earthquakes in the last 24 hours, opening up more cracks in the road for the lava to fill.

Joining us now from the Big Island is CNN Stephanie Elam. You and your crew were right there, so close to some of those fissures, what was that like?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have to say it's one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had on it. The fact of the matter is, I wasn't prepared for the sound of it, the sound it's making while you have the gases escaping from that molten lava, also the color of it, that deep orange, it almost looks like it's infused with color, because it looks so fake. And so, you've got that and the splatter, and how far it's flying, and the ash coming off of it, and the lava rock that comes off of if as well, that's being spewed forth of it from it. There's nothing that can prepare you for something like that when you're that close.

Now, imagine this happening four doors down from where you're leaving, and that's what happened to one man that we just spoke to, Steve Gebbie, who told me that he build the house that he's living in on his own. He's a carpenter by trade, just finish the house and then he saw this fissure open up and he said, unlike lave flow that takes a long time, this happen quickly, and he knew his house was at threat. Take a listen to what he said.

STEVE GEBBIE, LEILANI ESTATES RESIDENT: My life has been completely turned upside down. I mean, I think it's just starting to set in. You know, yesterday everybody looked like Beverly hillbillies. Everybody had everything in their trucks and on the run. Now, this is the first morning after evacuation, and -- now trying to figure out what the future brings.

ELAM: You're starting to feel it today?

GEBBIE: yes. I kind of said farewell to my house yesterday, but now I'm starting to think about my future, my work, my job. Am I going to have to move to somewhere else on the island? That might be forever be changed.

ELAM: Yes. So he's evacuated now to a friend's home, but he doesn't know if his house is still standing. And last count we heard thigh homes had been destroyed but he doesn't know whether that is one of his homes, if that's his home or not. And that's the issue here too, Ana, because of the sulfur dioxide escaping from these fissures, the air quality is bad. And when you get near it, just takes a little bit of it. It takes your breath away. You can't breathe it at all.

So that means that they have a hard time getting first responders in. There have been many earthquakes, one was 6.9 yesterday. That knocked out power to thousands of residents here, and it also close that national park here. All of that is playing into the hazards happening here on the island.

CABRERA: You mentioned the gas, you mentioned the earthquakes, there are still eruptions that have been happening. What are the expectations in terms of when all of this activity might stop?

ELAM: That is the billion dollar question, and here's the thing. When you talk to the people here, the officials are saying, if anyone says that they know how this volcano is going to erupt and how it's going to react, they're lying, they don't know. Even people who study volcanos constantly don't know. So it's a very fluid situation at this point.

CABRERA: Right. Stephanie Elam reporting from Hawaii, thank you. Keep us updated and do stay safe.

Coming up, Trump and the truth, the misstatements that have conservative media issuing harsh rebukes of the President, stay right there.


[15:38:32] CABRERA: It's a predicament for the White House. How does the public and press take what you say as fact when the story keeps changing based on who you ask or when you ask them. If you're the president facing questions about reimbursing your attorney for hush money paid to a porn star, the strategy appears to be this. Convince people they were never misled to begin with.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, when did you change your story on Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: We're not changing any stories.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said on the Air Force One that you did not know anything about the payment.

TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. You take a look at what I said, you take a look at what I see. You go back and take a look. You'll see what I said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said no when you ask you, you didn't know about the payment.

TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. You go take a look at what we said.


CABRERA: We did go back and take a look, and here's what he said on Air Force One exactly one month ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did Michael Cohen make it if you don't know.

TRUMP: Well, you have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael's my attorney, and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you flow where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.


CABRERA: For the President to claim that his story never changed is just not true. When asked about the credibility of this White House, this was the only way Press Secretary Sarah Sanders would respond.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We give the very best information that we have at the time. Again, we give the best information possible at the time, and again I've given the best information I've had at the time.

[15:40:05] Again, I gave you the best information that I had. I gave you the best information that I had. Again, I've given the best information I have, some information I am aware of and some I'm not.


CABRERA: And that was the response over and over and over again as you just saw. Let's discuss with Cofounder and Managing Editor of the Beat DC Tiffany Cross and Conservative Commentator and National Editor of Accuracy in Media, Carrie Sheffield.

So, Carrie, should the White House be worried genuinely that people might stop believing them?

CARRIE SHEFFIELD, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I agree with Sarah Huckabee Sanders that she's giving the best information she has at the time. That's her job. Things are happening in realtime in politics as you know, it can be the Wild West, and thing are unrolling in realtime. So I agree with that.

And also in terms of funding and payments and things like that, we saw from the tax returns that were issued by the Trump -- we don't know the source, but tax returns that had Trump's name or affiliation. You're talking hundreds of millions of dollars in money that's flowing in and flowing out. For him to be able to pinpoint one specific payment, I understand where they're coming from in terms of saying, look, the source of this, how it was paid for, what it was, you know, going through, there are lots of things that are up in the air. I mean, I think any reasonable people could see that.

CABRERA: Do you see it that way, Tiffany?

TIFFANY CROSS, COFOUNDER AND MANAGING EDITOR, THE BEAT DC: Absolutely not. And I love my friend, Carrie, but I have to strongly disagree. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has not giving the best information she has at the time. She's lying to the American people. And she does that almost everyday at that podium. I could go through innumerable lies that she's told. I'm afraid that we don't have enough time in the segment or in the hour.

But she's doubled down on many of the President's lies. Remember when he said the President that the Mexico called to thank him for the immigration policies. He said that the Boy Scouts of America came so kiss his ring. None of those things happened. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said they did.

She has also that immigrants are coming on diversity lottery visa aren't vetted. They are. All of these things are not -- that's not the best information she has at the time. Those are mistruths. And I think it's the outrage that the shock (inaudible) that people are saying, wait a second. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is lying? We've known that for a very long time, from the first day that he took that podium. And she has also --

SHEFFIELD: Tiffany, I respect you as well, my friend. However, I would say that the fact that we're talking about a porn actress here is (inaudible) of the major problem that Trump supporters have --

CROSS: When does her occupation have to do with anything? She's a woman who won't be silent as making a livable ways. Why is it having a point, it doesn't having anything to do with her being called a liar --

SHEFFIELD: Tiffany, it's the fact that we had --

(Inaudible) SHEFFIELD: Can I respond to what you just said?

CROSS: Sure.

SHEFFIELD: It has to do with the fact that for example, we had the most historic developments in North Korea, that is amazing news. We had this week job reports for African-Americans, for women, at historic lows, never seen for African-Americans. And for women 3.5 percent, never since 2000-2001, that's news.

CROSS: What does that have to do with Donald Trump lying?

SHEFFIELD: And the fact that we're talking about porn star actress suggests that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, she's doing the best she can, but when the national media is not doing its job to report on actual news.

CROSS: The national media actually is -- are we blaming the media for reporting on his lies, because that seems like a very strong case of what aboutism. I think Americans --


CABRERA: But we've covered all of -- we covered the economy, we've covered North Korea, we're not ignoring any of that, Carrie. The bottom line is, this is what the president is talking about. This is what his lawyer in the Russia probe is talking about. And that's why we're talking about it, and now we even have conservative media, traditional allies of this president taking issue with some of the mistruths. Listen.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: So let me be clear, Mr. President, how can you drain the swamp, if you're the one that's muddying the waters? Now, I'm not saying you're a liar, you're president, you're busy. I'm just having a devil of a time figuring out which news is fake. Let's say your own words on lots of stuff give me, shall I say, lots of pause.


CABRERA: And the Wall Street Journal which have also invited Rick Murdock had this to say. Trump is compiling a record that increases the likelihood that few will believe him during a genuine crisis. Trump should worry that Americans will stop believing anything he says. Carrie, what do you make of that?

SHEFFIELD: Well, I love the Wall Street journal. I love Neil Cavuto, I go on his show often. I'm a big fan. And the thing is, I think sometimes the President sadly gets caught up in his skies. He let's the national media dictate what he's -- the reason he's going to talk about it is because he's asked about it, incessantly.

And I'm with the national, you know, the national editor with Accuracy in Media, we just this week issued a new scorecard where we're going to be ranking, we are going to be rating news stories as they're coming out, whether they're misleading or not misleading, or whether emitting important details.

We see this happening over and over, and Trump supporters know that the national media is ignoring or they're choosing to focus on things that are not relevant or focusing on things that are, you know, the reporting is really bad.

CABRERA: But should the President get a pass for telling lies?

SHEFFIELD: No, I degree. And like I said, I am -- I agree with the Wall Street Journal, I agree with Neil that the president needs to be focused on substance. He needs to not get distracted. The national media in so many respects is a huge distraction, and sadly, the President, he does the best he can. Sarah Huckabee Sanders --

[15:45:15] CABRERA: The President is not doing the best he can --


CABRERA: -- if he's not telling the truth many. He is not doing the best he can.

CROSS: Yes. That's ridiculous, Carrie, come on, and to say that Trump supporters know the media is not focused. No, I think they have a very myopic view. I mean, we watched this week, a man who has never once asked for God's forgiveness lead a national prayer service. I think, how many mulligans can this guy get?

And for us, a president who has declared the media an enemy of the 1state, and for us to sit on this panel and suggest the media are the people who are misleading the public not president. I mean, often times the media gets so caught up in chasing his tweets. That perhaps there maybe something this in the cycle, that's the president's fault. That's not the media fault.

Look, I've done communication strategy, this administration is terrible at it. And they're failing, not only themselves but they're failing the American people. They can't do any strategy, because they're too busy trying to get caught up in the latest new cycle or the latest tweet cycle. And so, they don't get to tap in any messages that he's actually trying to get out there because he's too busy throwing a temper tantrum 280 characters at a time.

As a Republican, as a Conservative commentator, don't you want to hold this president to a higher standard, don't you want to put the responsibility on him to drive home his message? The press secretary's position used to be sure, you want to drive the narrative. You want to spin. Sarah Huckabee Sanders have given HBO West World writers a run for their money because she has frequently tries to invent a narrative that is simply false.

CABRERA: OK, ladies, we're going to have to -- in doing so, leave it right there. Thank you so much, Tiffany Cross and Carrie Sheffield, I appreciate it. Coming up, gun control activists protest the NRA's first big meeting since Parkland. We'll talk to the father of one student lost in that shooting. What he wants to say to the gun rights group and President Trump.



[15:51:28] TRUMP: Your second amendment rights are under siege. But they will never, ever be under siege as long as I'm your president.


CABRERA: President Trump playing to his base at the NRA convention, but he hasn't always been so Gung ho about gun rights. After the Parkland massacre, remember, he was encouraging broader gun control measures, expanding background checks, even changing the age for people to buy certain rifles. He then backed off those ideas.

Earlier today, a Parkland student Cameron Kasky highlighted the President's inconsistency.


CAMERON KASKY, PARKLAND STUDENT: He's a professional liar who will say anything to appease whatever crowd he's at. If he's in front of families, he might say something in support of common sense gun reform but then when he's at the NRA, he'll say something to get a big cheer.


CABRERA: The NRA convention continues today along with protests by gun control advocates outside the event. CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us from Dallas now. Ed, what are you hearing about why protesters feel it's so important to be there today?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDET: Well, hi, Ana. Well, what's striking here in Dallas today is you really see on the streets of downtown Dallas just the wide divide between what is taking place inside of the Dallas Convention Center, and that NRA annual meeting where you hear from tens of thousands of gun owners and NRA members who just kind of are -- say they're taken aback by the amount of criticism that the NRA has received in the wake of mass shooting across the country, a very defiant tone. And people talking about how they do not believe that the NRA is responsible in any way for these mass shooting.

And then outside today, here in downtown Dallas, there have been a number of protests, people coming out here in the streets to protest the NRA. We caught up with one of those demonstrators today. Might be a familiar face to many people around the country now, Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland shooting back in February. He spoke to a crowd here in downtown Dallas. And this is what he told us afterwards about what his message is for the NRA today.


FRED GUTTENBERG, FATHER OF PARKLAND SHOOTING VICTIM: They need to hear that their words, their attempts to push an agenda are simply not going to be accepted. They need to know that we have a message. They need to know we are here and we are not going away. And they need to know that we think they're not telling the truth.

They need to know that when they say they're all about good guys with guns, if they believed that, their highlight item this weekend would not be that gun that folds up into a cellphone-looking device.


LAVANDERA: So, there you have it, kind of in a nutshell, just this incredibly wide divide which is emblematic of what's been going on in this country, in this gun debate here in the last few months, Ana.

CABRERA: Ed Lavandera for us. Thank you for that report.

And last year, we shared the story of a top ten CNN hero from Detroit. He uses boxing to put kids on a path to academic success. His story and perseverance and sacrifice has inspired many. But it really struck a chord with a social studies student from New Hampshire who wrote a letter as part of an assignment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come up here for a second. Remember when he said that he wanted to Skype with us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He decided to do a little more than that. Can I introduce Mr. Khali Sweeney from Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program from Detroit, Michigan?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so honored to meet him, meet somebody like Khali Sweeney who changes lives every single day.


[15:55:06] CABRERA: For the full story or to nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero, go to We'll be right back.



CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. We begin with breaking news in the Russia investigation. One of President Trump's closest friends and confidant, a real estate tycoon who earned the President's trust decades ago was questioned by Robert Mueller's team of investigators.

CNN has learned billionaire Tom Barrack spoke to Mueller's team back in December. The President's friendship with Barrack dates back more than 40 years. And Trump tapped Barrack to chair his 2016 Inaugural Committee. Barrack talk to CNN back in October, watch.