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Special Counsel Issues Grand Jury Subpoenas; Probe Focuses on Possible Financial Crimes. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 4, 2017 - 00:00   ET


[23:59:47] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: And it's not just that you guys resemble each other --


CUOMO: -- which you do. You're both very handsome. However, your background goes right to the projected image of who Anthony Scaramucci is portended to be by some people because that's not who he is. He's not a thug, you know.

CANTONE: No. Well, you know --

CUOMO: But you know that world so well from your own life.

CANTONE: And I'm so attracted to it and him and the bravado of the Italian-American and what that is. And yet, you know, the fact that they repeat themselves incessantly makes my neck want to explode.

CUOMO: Had you ever the expression that the fish rots from the head down.

CANTONE: I think I have not heard that expression.

CUOMO: The one that you used, do we have a clip of his goodbye -- the Scaramucci goodbye? Do we have that? Please say yes.

CANTONE: Do we have it? I don't know.

CUOMO: All right. Well, you go look for it yourself in the "New York Times". You're going to do it again. You're going to do it on the show.

CANTONE: Well, yes. I'm doing it on "The President Show" when it actually just aired so I didn't even get to watch it because I came here to be with you.

And I have the suite at the Plaza Athenee. We are going -- am I correct?

CUOMO: Shh --


CANTONE: Oh, I'm sorry.

CUOMO: Listen. What do we see tonight in this? Because people are going to be watching it online --

CANTONE: I think it would -- yes, right. Well, we see him being -- we've seen him being kind of taken out and that he has to leave and where he's been, where he's been hiding out. You see where he's been hiding out. I don't want to give it away.

But it's very funny and the last scene of "The President Show" tonight is hilarious with his take it away.

CUOMO: Were you surprised at how viral it went?

CANTONE: Yes, I'm shocked.

CUOMO: And the plaudits that you got and kudos from people. Not just saying this is funny but that you did it so well.

CANTON: Well, yes, I am shocked. I'm shocked that it went this viral because I've been doing television for years and nothing has ever gone viral even though viral didn't exist when I was younger except with the measles, with the mumps.

But it -- so yes, I'm shocked. But you know, I wrote a piece for the "Washington Post" about being Italian. Did you read it?


CANTONE: I sent it to you. I texted it to you with a large --

CUOMO: I have you blocked.

CANTONE: You do not have me blocked. You do not because you text me all the time. Didn't want --

CUOMO: I don't know who that is.

CANTONE: Yes, yes. It fits -- you know, there's a whole name for us now because we have a bromance.

CUOMO: What is it?

CANTONE: It's Cantomo (ph)


CANTONE: Yes. But that sounds like --


CANTONE: Because I am the --

CUOMO: Did you create it? Because I created it, that's why.

CANTONE: No, one of my Twitter fans created it, that's why. You know.

CUOMO: Twitter fans -- that's an oxymoron. Let me ask you --


CUOMO: Do you think that it will keep going? Anthony gave you a gift by having this online thing that was supposed to happen --


CANTONE: It's happening Friday, but you know what, it's been -- he's delaying this now. He's not doing it. Do you think he's going to end up doing it?

CUOMO: I don't know. I honestly -- I really don't know.

CANTONE: Well, if he does --

CUOMO: I wish him well but I don't know.

CANTONE: I don't know what he's going to do. Whatever -- look, this White House right now is so unpredictable and the people surrounding whether they left or stayed they pop up. So if he pops up and he does this thing on line, who knows? But you know what, I'm good staying home and watching television.

CUOMO: you have made an impact. You're now part of the (inaudible) -- this whole deal.

CANTONE: I really appreciate you pushing this and plugging me and speaking so highly of me for the last week.

CUOMO: You did it brilliantly. Even Anthony Scaramucci thinks so.

CANTONE: He does think so.

CUOMO: It is true.

Mario Cantone -- I've always wanted to co-host with you. This has been one box I can check off.

CANTONE: Oh it's your bucket list.

CUOMO: I have to end the show. We'll talk after. Don't -- you didn't say anything to put me in trouble.

CANTONE: Don't go.

CUOMO: Let's leave it like that.

Thanks for us tonight. Thank you for watching. I'm Chris Cuomo, in for Don Lemon. Appreciate you being here. Take care.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour.

The Russia investigation takes another big step forward but in Donald Trump's view the story is still just a total fabrication.

Three world leaders, two awkward phone calls. We're learning surprising details about Donald Trump's conversations with the leaders of Australia and Mexico.

Also ahead, an American teenager takes his own life, now his girlfriend is heading to jail in a precedent-setting case.

Hello and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

Two major developments in the U.S. Justice Department's investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. A source familiar with the matter tells CNN special counsel Robert Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer last year.

The e-mails setting up the meeting promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Mr. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended.

Well, President Trump isn't responding directly to news about grand jury subpoenas but -- but he is lashing out about the probe in general.

At a campaign rally in West Virginia a few hours ago, Mr. Trump said Democrats are using the Russia story as an excuse for their election loss.


[00:05:02] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There were no Russians in our campaign. There never were. We didn't win because of Russia. We won because of you. That I can tell you.


SESAY: Well, the second major development to tell you about -- CNN has learned Mueller's team is looking closely at financial ties between Russia and Mr. Trump, his family and the Trump Organization. The President has warned that's a red line Mueller shouldn't be allowed to cross.

CNN's Pamela Brown has all the details.


TRUMP: Does anyone really believe that story?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Russia investigation continues to widen as federal investigators explore the potential financial ties of President Trump and associates to Russia.

Sources tell CNN financial links could offer a more concrete path to any potential prosecutions. Investigators are delving in to possible financial crimes including some unconnected to the election.

For the President -- that's going to far. He's warned that delving into his businesses is a quote, "violation". Trump has maintained there is no collusion and he has no financial ties to Russia.

TRUMP: And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia.

BROWN: Now one year into this complex probe, the FBI has reviewed financial records related to the Trump Organization; the President himself as well as his family members and campaign associates.

CNN is told investigators have combed through the shell companies and buyers of Trump branded real estate properties. They scrutinized the roster of tenants at Trump Tower in Manhattan, reaching back several years. And officials familiar with the investigation tell CNN Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has examined the backgrounds of Russian business associates connected to Trump --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From Moscow, it's Miss Universe 2013.

BROWN: -- dating back to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant he hosted in Moscow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you to Aras Agalorov and the focus group for their amazing hospitality --

BROWN: CNN could not determine whether the review has included Trump's tax returns.

But even investigated leads that have nothing to do with Russia but involved Trump associates are being referred to the special counsel to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate.

TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

BROWN: President Trump keenly aware of the increased financial focus regularly denounces the investigation.

TRUMP: Russia is fake news. Russia -- this is fake news put out by the media.

BROWN: Trump's team seeking to limit Mueller's investigation.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President's point is that he doesn't want the special counsel to move beyond the scope and outside of its mission. And the President has been very clear as have his accountants and team that he has no financial dealings with Russia. And so I think we've been extremely clear on that.

BROWN: CNN has learned new details about how Mueller is running his special counsel team. More than three dozen attorneys, FBI agents and support staff. Expert in investigating fraud and financial crime broken into groups focused separately on collusion and obstruction of justice. There is also focus on targets like Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager and General Michael Flynn, his fired national security advisor.

CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious of Manafort when they turned up intercepted communication that U.S. intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort to coordinate information that could hurt Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House according to U.S. officials.

In Flynn's case, the focus is now on his lobbying work for the Turkish government which he failed to initially disclose as required by law.

While both men deny any wrongdoing the approach to the Manafort and Flynn probes may offer a template for how the focus by investigators on possible financial crimes could help gain leverage and cooperation in the investigation.

BROWN: The President's attorney Jay Sekulow said to CNN in a statement quote, "The President's outside legal counsel has not received any request for documentation or information about this. Any inquiry from the special counsel that goes beyond the mandate specified in the appointment we would object to. As for contacts, investigators don't have to go directly to the President's lawyers to get financial information. Investigators can issue subpoenas to financial institutions and get records from the Treasury Department.

Pamela Brown, CNN -- Washington.


SESAY: Well, joining us here in L.A. CNN's senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic" Ron Brownstein, and criminal defense attorney Brian Claypool. Gentlemen -- welcome, always a pleasure to have you with us.

Brian -- let me start with you by getting you to explain for our viewers quite simply what exactly a grand jury is. And how that alters the Mueller's investigation as we previously understood it.

BRIAN CLAYPOOL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Sure. A grand jury investigation is not a judicial proceeding. But what it is that's very profound is it's an investigative tool.

[00:10:06] It gives Robert Mueller subpoena power. He can now go out and subpoena, for example, business records, financial records. He can also subpoena witnesses to come to testify before the grand jury.

And that is very, very powerful in this investigation because it allows for a fact-finding mission. The ultimate goal of the grand jury then is to determine whether anybody will be indicted. It's not to determine whether somebody has been -- somebody has committed a crime but is there reasonable basis to indict anybody for a crime.

SESAY: Well, Ron -- the President didn't address the issue directly. We know we had that campaign rally -- that rally, I should say in West Virginia, in Huntington. But he did address the issue of the Russia probe in general. Take a listen.


TRUMP: They can't beat us at the voting booths so they're trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They're trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most of importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.


SESAY: Ron -- what do you make of that? Very interesting the way --

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That is a fascinating quote because it really does encapsulate what has been an important political strategy for the President since taking office which is to try to equate any attacks on him with an attempt to essentially suppress his supporters, right.

So the idea being that you are voters who are being overlooked by these coastal elites. You reasserted yourself and now when they're coming after me, they're really coming after you.

There's a parallel though here, you know. In the same way that he is saying that Russia did not decide the election, Russia is not the reason, the principal reason at all he is in the hole he is in six months into the presidency.

I mean he's looking at the lowest approval ratings we've seen in a president at this point. You know, 33 percent in one poll --

SESAY: That's right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- this week. It is not Russia. It is the way he is comporting himself as president above all. I mean the personal doubts, the questions about temperament, the qualifications and judgment.

And the more he kind of lashes out at this story, in some ways the more he kind of reinforces what I believe is the real dynamic that is driving down his numbers.

SESAY: Are you surprised though that the tenor, the tone of that bearing in mind he has a new chief of staff who, you know, the question for the last couple days has been can Kelly rein him in.

BROWNSTEIN: No, I think -- Kelly can create a more professional process in the White House. But I don't think anybody is reining him down.

I mean there is no new Donald Trump, right. I mean, this is a man who's over 70 years old. He got elected this way. He is certainly struggling to advance any kind of presidential agenda through Congress in this manner. But there's no signs that he's changing. SESAY: Brian -- this grand jury that's been impaneled by Robert Mueller, it's worth pointing out to our viewers that there was already a grand jury in place in Virginia in relation to the General Flynn inquiry.

So help us understand why another grand jury. What does that mean? What does that tell us? What does it signal?

CLAYPOOL: Well, just so we're clear for your viewers, too. A federal grand jury has to have at least 16 members to have a quorum. It can go up to 23. But I just wanted to clarify that as well.


CLAYPOOL: Now, I think the reason why there was a separate grand jury for Flynn I think -- the big reason is to avoid any perception of bias or conflict of interest because if you remember, President Trump was distancing himself greatly from Flynn a few weeks ago.

So if you think President Trump's barking loud now, can you imagine if he was involved in the same grand jury investigation with Flynn?

SESAY: So this is all about keeping things separate and clean and above reproach.

CLAYPOOL: Yes. Let me just tell you briefly why that's important because Rod Bernstein (SIC), he's now the de facto Attorney General on this case because Sessions had to recuse himself.

BROWNSTEIN: Rosenstein.

CLAYPOOL: Right --

BROWNSTEIN: Rosenstein.

CLAYPOOL: Oh, Rosenstein -- ok, right. Now, he does have the ability at the direction of President Trump. If President Trump said I want you to fire Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor, he could for cause. And one of the for cause issues is if there is a conflict of interest.

SESAY: I see.

CLAYPOOL: That's where it fits in and it's a very important component.

SESAY: Yes, it's a very important component.

Ron -- take a listen to Kellyanne Conway, the President's counselor. She gave some reaction to the news of the grand jury a short time ago. Take a listen.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR: We know that these types of -- these types of endeavors have been fishing expeditions. They're very broadly-cast nets.

[00:15:00] And I would remind everybody that in terms of President Trump, he has said that he has no financial dealings with Russia whatsoever.


SESAY: The President has said that but we now know that they are digging into financial records of President Trump, the Trump campaign and his family. Of course now it leads to the question of crossing of red lines. Does it raise the stakes of Mueller being fired?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of all, you know, my experience has been in having watched a number of these -- all the way back to Lawrence Walsh (ph) in the 1980s and Iran contra. It's hard to watch these criminal investigations from the outside the way we would a legislative battle.

I mean this is -- the glass is much more opaque. I don't think -- we think -- we know less than we think we do I think at any -- at any given point. So exactly what they're learning and exactly where they're going -- you know, it's hard -- it's hard to kind of do the play by play as we go.

Having said that I think that as -- you know, the President has repeatedly offered hints, suggestions that he will -- he wants to find a way, I think, to fire Mueller sooner or later.

On the other hand, what you're seeing develop on Capitol Hill is a backlash against that idea particularly in the Senate. And I think the warnings of Senate Republicans have gotten significantly, more significant, in the last several days, several weeks.

And suggesting that in the same way that he is trying to set a red line, they are trying to set a red line and say if you do this, this could be the beginning of the end of your presidency.

So exactly how that plays out, Donald Trump as you know kind of barreled through a lot of red lines in his short political career but I think the Senate Republicans, not necessarily the House yet, are putting down some important markers.

SESAY: To that point, I want us to play some sound from our own Dana Bash speaking to Senator Susan Collins who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She gave her reaction to the notion of red lines.

And then Brian -- I want you to weigh in because there's a question raised here that I need your legal expertise on.


SESAY: Let's roll that sound.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: CNN is reporting that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expanding his investigation to include the President' final dealings that may not have anything to do with the campaign in 2016. Is that appropriate?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I believe that the Special Counsel has a very broad mandate. And he should follow the leads wherever they may be and thus I do not think his investigation should be constrained beyond the mandate that he was given when he was appointed.

BASH: The President called that a red line.

COLLINS: The President can't set red lines for Bob Mueller.



SESAY: That's the question. Senator Susan Collins a Republican saying the President can't set red lines with Bob Mueller. Is she right?

CLAYPOOL: I don't believe she's correct because Robert Mueller has not been given plenary power in this investigation.

What do I mean by plenary power? He does not have unfettered power as an Attorney General to do whatever he wants to do in this investigation.

There are parameters on the investigation. And the parameters are to look into the Russian meddling probe in the election.

Now if I'm in President Trump's camp I would argue as he is vehemently that once you start crossing into I'm just going to subpoena willy- nilly financial records on my business investments to try to connect President Trump to Russians -- that's beyond the scope of the investigation.

BROWNSTEIN: But the question of underlying financial obligation or relation is obviously relevant to the issue of whether Russia with its help had any leverage over him. And --


CLAYPOOL: And illegally meddling in an election --

BROWNSTEIN: Well, among other things who was the progenitor of the meeting in Trump Tower with the lawyer? It was someone with whom the President was financially involved through the beauty pageant that was held in Moscow.

So until we know -- again, it's very hard from the outside to know exactly whether -- I would say whatever and I'm not a lawyer or a prosecutor -- let me say whatever the legal question of the red line, the political question is very important, to because as I said you are starting to see Senate Republicans and not only Susan Collins, but someone like Thom Tillis who is a (inaudible) in the mainstream of the Republican caucus in the Senate saying, you know, beginning to work with Lindsey Graham also, beginning to work with Democrats on the question of establishing some level of protection.

I think there would be an enormous uproar if the President says I don't like where this investigation is going, therefore I am firing him.

You know, the signals have been muted before --


BROWNSTEIN: -- I think they're going to be sharper now.


CLAYPOOL: But just to be clear, he can do because if it gets too far, he's going to pull the rug out, whether you like it or not.

SESAY: We must end it here. We get a round two in the next hour.


SESAY: Ron, Brian -- thank you, appreciate it.

All right. Let's take a quick break now.

Next on NEWSROOM L.A., what really happened in phone calls Donald Trump made to two key allies just days after he took office? The transcripts are out and they tell quite a story.

Plus, one of Dubai's tallest buildings on fire -- how crews save the day, next.


SESAY: Hello -- everyone.

We are learning new details of President Trump's private phone conversations last January with two U.S. allies. One with the President of Mexico, the other was the Prime Minister of Australia.

So we've heard before how contentious those phone calls were. Now the "Washington Post" has obtained transcripts of the conversations and the reflection on Mr. Trump is now flattering. CNN cannot independently verify their authenticity.

CNN's Randi Kaye has the details.


RANDI KAYE, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: His first phone call with the Mexican president after taking office and Donald Trump was already arm twisting.

Transcripts obtained by the "Washington Post" reveal President Trump's goal -- to stop Mexican President Enrique Pena-Nieto from saying publicly that Mexico will not pay for the border wall.

Trump: "We should both say we will work it out."

The phone call took place on January 27, just two days after President Trump signed an executive order to build the wall though funding is still an issue. Trump appearing to try to script the Mexican President.

Pena Nieto: "My position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall."

A frustrated Trump: "But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that."

Earlier in the call, Trump issued an ultimatum of sorts. "If you're going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with guys anymore."

Trump also suggesting this could backfire on him. "This is the least important thing that we are talking about but politically this might be the most important."

Trump and the Mexican president also discussed the problem with gangs and drugs. That's when Trump insulted the people of New Hampshire referring to his win there in the primaries. "I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den coming from southern border".

Still before it was over, President Trump changed his tune after they both agreed to stop talking about the wall and who will pay for it.

Trump telling the Mexican president that he'll make him so popular that his people will call for a constitutional amendment so he can run again. In Mexico, presidents are limited to a single six-year term.

In another call that same week with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, one of our closest allies, Trump lost his patience. Their conversation went south after Turnbull asked Trump to consider taking as many as 2,000 refugees that had tried to enter Australia by boat. The Obama administration had originally cut a deal to do so.

Trump's response: "Boy, that will make us look awfully bad. Here I am calling for a ban where I am not letting anybody in and we take 2,000 people. The United States has become like a dumping ground."

[00:25:01] Turnbull quickly tried to explain. "Every individual is subject to your vetting."

Again like with Mexico, Trump appeared worried about how it all would make him look. Trump: "This is going to kill me. I am the world's greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week."

Trump suggested the refugees could become a Boston bomber. He also called the whole agreement a quote, "stupid deal". And after finally agreeing to vet the refugees he said the deal makes him look like a dope. Later in the call, the transcripts show Trump said, "I will be seen as a weak and ineffective leader in my first week by these people. This is a killer."

Finally before abruptly ending the call, Trump hurled one more insult Australia's way. "I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous."

Randi Kaye, CNN -- New York.


SESAY: Mr. Turnbull on Friday downplayed the leaked conversation saying he enjoyed a quote, "warm relationship with President Trump".

With us to share his insight is, once again, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron -- thank you for sticking around.


SESAY: What stands out for you from these leaked transcripts?

BROWNSTEIN: You know what? You know what really struck about this. I point back to the thinking of last fall when -- after President Trump was elected in November and December. A lot of the kind of commentary was well, there was the campaign Trump but now he is going to be domesticated particularly by the foreign policy establishment.

Remember a "Saturday Night Live" sketch with Kate McKinnon who's telling (inaudible) that you know, Donald Trump is throwing away all of the campaign promises particularly on foreign policy.

Well, guess what, I mean he was very aggressively pushing a lot of the ideas that he ran and in essence -- above all in the tone, a much more confrontational posture with these foreign leaders. And I think your reaction to this -- to these tapes will be largely on whether you think it is productive to have this a, kind of the America first perspective but also the more belligerent kind of personal style or whether you believe both of those things are ultimately making it harder for America to get what it wants in the world.

And the other thing I was -- I think he did show, particularly with Pena-Nieto, a little more understanding of the political problems another leader would face. There was kind of a hectoring tone overall in these calls. But they were not completely obtuse.

I mean, you know, some of the passages with Pena-Nieto on the wall that have drawn the most attention today. In essence he's kind of acknowledging that the president of Mexico can, you know, when he says I cannot pay for this wall.

And you know, he's trying to figure out a way that they both can kind of move forward beyond this.

SESAY: What about those who say -- points to a kind of political cynicism that, you know, when he was on the campaign trail and even recently in the G-20, he was still saying he's going to pay for this wall. And it's almost like a double speak, it's just red meat to the base.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. You know, I thought it was more complicated than that because right -- I mean what he -- what he was saying here was, as I recall from the transcripts was, I wanted to make you pay for this through higher tariffs. You have this big trade surplus with us and I'm going to hit you with tariffs to make you pay for it.

But then he was talked out of that idea at least temporarily by his son in law and the Mexican foreign minister, yes.


BROWNSTEIN: You know, meeting. And so they were trying -- you know, he wants Mexico to pay for this. He will --


SESAY: I'm sorry -- does it burnish his image as this negotiator which is what, you know, the campaign --

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the whole -- especially the Australian call. There isn't a lot of effective negotiation. That's kind of like, you know, two alphas butting heads and we saw in the congressional battle over the health care bill, he wasn't really able to structure a deal. I mean he didn't understand the details enough to structure a deal.

The Australian call is more like him just kind of going, boy, this will make me look stupid and kind of very broad. And I think not really having the nuance to try to find a way, too.

I thought in the Mexico call there was a little more of a nuance of trying to understand. Ok well, you know, yes I don't want this one issue to define the whole relationship. I can't give it up. You can't seem to be rolled over by me. What can we do?

SESAY: But in terms of that Australia call, there's also the notable line, you know, this has been an awful call --


SESAY: -- you know, my call with President Putin was way more pleasant --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well.

SESAY: -- which has people again, in light of everything that's going on with the Russia story, asking questions.

BROWNSTEIN: And you know, everything about the Putin-Trump relationship is difficult to understand. I mean, you know, and even his signing statement, you know. Congress made as strong a statement as they could as part of this general movement that we're seeing of Republicans led by Senate Republicans trying to kind of fence him in somewhat on issues related to Russia. The possibility as we said of establishing a judicial review of any attempt to dismiss the special counsel.

But I think that this, you know, this does -- it's in that long list of activities that leave you kind of scratching your head a little bit saying what is it that he sees in Putin that is so different from what pretty much everyone else in the Western world at this point.

[00:30:08] SESAY: And generally speaking, taken as a whole the transcripts of these two calls, at a time when President Trump's credibility or his approval rating stands at 33 percent, according to that recent Quinnipiac, does that further harm that?

Does it further undercut his credibility?

BROWNSTEIN: I don't think tremendously, maybe a little -- as I said, I think Trump -- why are his numbers are so low?

His numbers are so low for two reasons. One is the way he has comported himself as president, has reaffirmed the doubts of people who weren't sure that he was personally up for the job by temperament or qualification.

I think the other reason he's so low is because the health care bill laid such an egg and was so negatively received. You see the groups that were most aversely affected, his numbers (INAUDIBLE). To the people who voted for Donald Trump to be the brusque, even belligerent advocate of America first, they heard on these transcripts exactly what they wanted.

For people who think that is a path toward isolation for the U.S. and less influence, all of their doubts are reaffirmed.

SESAY: Always good to speak to you. Thank you.

Quick break here on NEWSROOM L.A. Shocking new details in the Australian terror case and the role ISIS may have had in trying to bomb a plane -- ahead.




SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour:


SESAY: Well, the men in fact have been charged with a second terror plot as well. Our own Anna Coren is tracking the story. She joins us now from Sydney with more.

Anna, tell us more about what we're learning about these two alleged plots. ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary and shocking details that we learned from the Australian federal deputy police commissioner a few hours ago about this plot. As you say those two men, were charged overnight with the terror offenses. One is still in custody and one was released.

But as far as the (INAUDIBLE) who were charged, they are a 32-year old and a --


COREN: -- 49-year-old man from Sydney. Now one of them, the 49-year old, three weeks ago walked into Sydney International Airport which is where we are standing. He walked in, checked in at the Etihad counter, which is just behind me, carrying and IED, a fully-fledged, fully functioning IED, according to police.

Now the plan was to check it in and part of his brother luggage. Police claimed the brother knew nothing about the plot. He was boarding the flight, the Etihad flight. There was something that took place at the check-in which suggested that he decided to abort the plan.

There is much speculation and conjecture as to what happened, why the change of heart, but certainly he took that IED and he left the airport. Now, as you say, the components of this IED were flown in from the Middle East. That is something that police confirmed to us today, that they were in touch way with an ISIS controller -- that was the term that the police used -- and he was instructing them on how to put together these components, highly explosive military explosives, that he had sent via air cargo.

So you can imagine that here in Australia, there is outrage as to how these military explosives were able to get onto Australian land, really. But certainly that second fuss (ph), just quickly, a chemical dispersion device, this was not targeting the aviation industry but rather a crowded space. Police suggesting perhaps public transport. They do stress that this was nowhere near completion.

But obviously, both of these plots, if they had not been thwarted, could have been catastrophic.

SESAY: Frightening indeed. Anna Coren, joining us there, Anna, we appreciate it. Thank you so much for the update.

When we come back next on NEWSROOM L.A., she listened over the phone as he suffocated to death. A woman involved in her boyfriend's suicide has been sentenced. We'll ask the legal expert about this case -- next.



(MUSIC PLAYING) SESAY: A woman has been sentenced to 15 months in prison over the suicide of her boyfriend. Michelle Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter earlier this year. The court looked at hundreds of text messages in which she urged 18-year-old Conrad Roy to end his life. Roy poisoned himself in 2014, inhaling carbon monoxide in his pickup truck.

Carter listed over the phone as he suffocated, never contacting the police.

Let's get more on this now from criminal defense attorney Melissa Lewkowicz. She's also a costar on Investigation Discovery's "Reasonable Doubt."

So great to have you with us.



SESAY: Welcome. This young woman was facing 20 years in prison and she came away with --


SESAY: -- 2.5 years. She will stay out of prison while she appeals.

Are you surprised by what the judge handed down?

I'm surprised by the judge's verdict. I am surprised by the judge's statement regarding his verdict. I'm surprised that the judge came to this conclusion in a case where I think that mental illness was really something at issue. And it was something that really needed to be explored.

So, yes, I am concerned about that. I will touch on that later. But with respect to the actual charge and the actual sentence in this case, I think, yes, it appears to be lenient for a case where someone's life was taken.

But in this particular case, we're dealing with a juvenile. She was 17 years old when she committed this offense. So we're dealing with juvenile issues, juvenile issues which should be at play.

Unfortunately, she was tried as an adult, as you know. And she was tried in a bench trial. So she was denied the very right to a jury trial --


SESAY: Didn't she -- what's the legal term?

Didn't she give that up, her right to a bench trial?

That's my understanding. LEWKOWICZ: I'm not sure what the defense attorney did in this case. But in this particular case, when you are facing 20 years of state prison, this is something where you want a jury trial. This is something that you should not be denied a jury trial for.

SESAY: Let me read you what the judge said. We have it's let's put it up on screen.

The judge said, "This court must and has balanced between rehabilitation, the promise that rehabilitation would work and a punishment for the actions that have occurred."

But I also want you to take a listen to the victim's father, Conrad Roy. He spoke in court on Thursday. Listen to what he said.


CONRAD ROY JR., VICTIM'S FATHER: I cannot begin to describe the despair I feel over the loss of my son. Perhaps I could ask you to imagine the worst emotional pain you ever experienced and multiply to an infinite number of times.

I am heartbroken; our family is heartbroken. My son was my best friend. Through the height of his depression, I was by his side, trying to build his spirits and to affect his behavior positively, striving to lead him towards the bright future that was before him.


SESAY: Melissa, it's such a painful case, you know, again, the question comes down to the balance between just this rehabilitation.

LEWKOWICZ: This is a terrible tragedy where nobody wins. And, yes, it does come down to that balance. And I think that this judge, what he was trying to do in sentencing to 30 months and actually only holding her to 15 was holding 15 months over her head on a probationary kind of feel to make sure that she is good, that she does everything that she needs to do.

Now why isn't she actually going in until the appeal?

This is a question that we should all be asking and this is a question that I think should be asked to the judge, who, I think in this case, may be unsure about his verdict. This is a verdict that is very controversial.

SESAY: And talk to me about that because people say this is precedent setting, finding her guilty, that he had implications for cyber bullying, a case of when bullying becomes homicide. It changes the definition of manslaughter.

Talk to me about that.

LEWKOWICZ: Absolutely. This does change things. This could have major -- this could be setting a major precedent. So this is a huge case in those ways. Why?

Because we are dealing with things that are very relevant. This is all very relevant. These kids are all on text messaging, they are all on social media. And these are all just pretty little words floating on their virtual screens. They are not conscious about how their words affect people. They are not conscious of the magnitude of what they say and how that could happen, how this could happen.

SESAY: It's the desensitizing that has happened with text messaging and the way we communicate. To your point, kids just don't get it. It's just words and they're hidden behind the screen.


SESAY: And this kind of changes the game.

Melissa, I'm so sorry we must leave it there because it's a great conversation. Do come back. Let's pick it the next time. Appreciate it.

LEWKOWICZ: Thank you.

SESAY: All right. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. We must leave it there. "WORLD SPORT" starts after the break.