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Trump Lawyers Gripe About Russia Probe in Public; Trump's Nickname for North Korean Leader Is Rocket Man; GOP Making Last Ditch Effort to Overturn Obamacare; Interview with Rep. Tom Reed. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 18, 2017 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke BALDWIN. You have these Trump lawyers speaking very openly, apparently loudly over lunch in public in a popular Washington, D.C., restaurant. They're talking about inside stuff about the Russian probe, about fierce co-workers maybe wearing wires and who do you suppose they just happened to be sitting next to? "New York Times" reporter Ken Vogel. Ty Cobb and Trump's personal lawyer John Dowd as they were sitting there in a public space eating lunch and talking very, very loudly. Ken Vogel is joining me now from Washington. You were sitting there and got the picture and the whole deal. Can you just tell me, how did -- you were obviously sitting very close. How did you realize who these people were and that this was going to be this huge scoop in the public place?

KEN VOGEL, REPORTER, "The New York Times": Yes, Brooke, I actually was having lunch with a source and the source noticed that these two gentlemen came in and the source said isn't it that guy Ty Cobb?

BALDWIN: With the mustache?

VOGEL: He's a pretty distinctive dude. He's not going to go unnoticed in Washington particularly a restaurant that is frequented not just lobbyists and lawyers, but reporters. I should point out the restaurant is 171 feet away from "The New York Times" Washington bureau and not the best place to have this conversation and nonetheless, we're sitting there with the source and we finished up our lunch and the source got up to leave and wanted to know if I was walking out. I said you know what? I think I'll just stick around here for a few minutes and proceeded to sit there and drank a few more iced teas and really had to go to the bathroom. And continued taking notes as they continued this conversation not with just me and the wait staff, and sensitive stuff, as you pointed out, dealing with executive privilege and document production and tensions within the legal team.

And when this got back to the White House because we started calling people and asking them about not just the substance of it, but we revealed to them that this is how we knew that these were issues that were up for debate, that precipitated a conversation which Don McGahn, the White House counsel and the chief of staff called out Ty Cobb for being so careless with this very sensitive information. BALDWIN: OK. Let's back up a couple of steps just to what you were

overhearing in the substance of this piece that you write-up. A piece of this conversation you hear Ty Cobb talking about Don McGahn White House counsel and has important documents locked away in a safe. Obviously, you and I have no idea what those documents contain, but why would they be in a safe? What would that signal to you or legal minds?

VOGEL: I don't know, necessarily that it's not unusual that a lawyer who would be handling top-secret, classified information would have documents in a safe.

[15:35:00] That said, the fact that Ty Cobb was singling out that there were these documents in a safe in the context of a broader conversation about document production and different approaches to document production where Cobb wanted there to be more disclosure of documents. And McGahn wanted there to be less disclosure or a more careful review of those documents before they were disclosed certainly suggests that Ty Cobb believed that these documents in the safe were somehow critical and should be turned over to Mueller and that McGahn did not. We don't know what these documents are. All we know is there is a potential debate about that.

BALDWIN: As you explain in the piece, Ty Cobb is more of the school of thought let's just turn it all over and get this thing over with more quickly which is in contrast to what Don McGahn says. There's also a line in the piece, Ken, where you hear talk of, of course, fears or tensions within the White House and so some people are worried that some people may be mic'd for Bob Mueller. Why?

VOGEL: Yes. I mean, well, if you think about it, Brooke, you have a number of lawyers who are working ostensibly on the same side, that is, they're working for Trump, Trump's associates, the office of the president in as they handle this Mueller probe. That said, they're competing imperatives here. It's not necessarily in Jared Kushner's interest for Paul Manafort to present information and vice versa.

So you have people who serve different roles and there is suspicion about not just this issue of document production and who might be, we hear concern that there might be efforts to flip Paul Manafort, for instance or Mike Flynn and get them to talk about what they know about the Trump campaign. So, you have a lawyer who represents a Paul Manafort or a Jared Kushner and they're in opposition to each other in some way and yet they have to work together to some extent and that's where you have the potential for distrust at most, I don't want to use the word paranoid, but it's more so a suspicious extent could result in people being concerned that someone might be, if not wearing a wire at least revealing contents of these conversations to investigators.

BALDWIN: Extraordinary. Learning lessons for lawyers all around Washington, D.C., Ken Vogel, thank you so much.

VOGEL: Thank you so much.

Coming up next here, it is repeal and replace coming back. The Arizona governor has just backed a new Republican plan to overturn Obamacare. How might that influence a very important Republican in Senator McCain and also the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushing for a vote later in the month and we'll get into all of that. He's in charge of a nuclear armed North Korea and Kim Jong-un getting a nickname from the president invoking an Elton John song.


BALDWIN: Another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare gaining traction on Capitol Hill. Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy are pushing this bill to get rid of the affordable care act. What it would do is put the burden of health care back on the states depending on who you talk to, it's a long shot, but sponsors of the bill insist they're closing in on the votes. Moments ago, the bill picking up an important endorsement by the Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey announcing his support for the legislation saying Graham Cassidy is the best path forward to repeal and replace Obamacare, and you're thinking why is this Germane? It is because Senator McCain, Arizona, has indicated his decision will depend a lot on what the governor says. Joining me to discuss this I have New York congressman Tom Reed with me, a Republican. Welcome to CNN.

REP. TOM REED, (R), NEW YORK: Great to be here. Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You know the deal with votes and what they need. I guess, Collins and Paul, they're out so it comes down to even if McCain, depending on it sounds like how the Arizona governor is going, it's Lisa Murkowski who says she's still looking at it, hail Mary, congressman, is this thing going to go anywhere?

REED: The clock is ticking and the Senate has to act. Obviously, I'll believe it when I see it given the nature of where the senate's been. If they can move it we'll have to deal with it in the House, but at the present time it's up to the Senate.

BALDWIN: On dealing with it in the House piece. If they pass it and we know because of reconciliation and because of whatever version comes through the senate, the house would have to sign off without any changes.

REED: Pretty much.

BALDWIN: We know what it looked like and the different iterations before the big celebration in the rose garden. Do you think that that is within the realm of --?

REED: I think it's too soon to tell. You have to see what comes out of the Senate and what the final product looks like and what are the amendments going to do to it and I don't know if they'll try to bypass that, as we speak and bottom line is there were provisions in the bill I supported at the local level here in the state of New York, and that's critical to my constituents and I know that's not in this package and we're starting to see things in it that are concerning, but I never will judge a bill until I see the final details of it.

BALDWIN: What you really care about is tax reform.

REED: I really do.

BALDWIN: You really care about tax reform and you met with the president last week at the White House about this. Did he seem more versed on tax reform than health care?

REED: You know, absolutely, I think this is something that he has been involved with. He knows the tax code intimately and with being a businessman and being the dealmaker that he is out of New York City here, and I think this is definitely something. He's got a great feel about, and I think he's going to be a great partner to get this to the finish line and by reaching across the aisle, I think that gives us a higher likelihood of success to get it done for the American people.

BALDWIN: What about North Korea, just in case you haven't seen this, the president tweeted over the weekend and we know about the tensions. He tweets I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night and asked him how rocket man was doing and long lines for gas in North Korea. Too bad. This is a very serious, serious story and to hear the president reference Kim Jong-un as rocket man, all jokes aside, is that appropriate?

REED: In the day of social media and twitter type of foreign policy I'll let people judge that, and we're dealing with a grave situation and putting a spotlight on North Korea, the way the president has done and raised the profile of this to the grave nature that it is, I think it is appropriate.

BALDWIN: You're OK with rocket man.

REED: Obviously, we each have our styles of dealing with foreign policy and I would go a different path, but at the end of the day we're talking about a serious situation. We're talking about it now and it's being brought to the attention of the American people and it is a grave risk to us here on America with our fellow citizens.

BALDWIN: Kim Jong-un is no one knows what he's thinking and what he might do next.

[15:45:00] So the notion of belittling him by calling him rocket man, is that dangerous?

REED: Well, you know, obviously, any time you're dealing with foreign policy and any statement you make has to be taken into consideration and the actions have to be taken with great consideration and what the president is doing, we're trying to put pressure on China in order to stabilize this area, and I think continuing to put pressure not only on China, but to also put the sanctions in place and this is where Nikki Haley was and focus the world's attention to put pressure on North Korea and say this is unacceptable --

BALDWIN: Congressman Reed, a pleasure.

REED: Thank you so very much.

BALDWIN: Ahead here, a fourth day of demonstrations under way in St. Louis after a former police officer is cleared of murder charges in the shooting of a black man. The city has been on edge in the last couple of days and we'll watch what can happen tonight. You're watching CNN. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Protests in St. Louis have been happening now for four days in a row, anger and unrest triggered by the acquittal of a former police officer for first degree murder. More than 80 people were arrested during the third night of demonstrations. Police officers were assaulted. Windows were smashed in. Trash cans tossed around. Dan Simon is there for us this afternoon in St. Louis and I see the

broken window behind you.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's really the theme here in St. Louis. A lot of vandalism. We were in downtown St. Louis. You can see this is the Marriott Convention Center. It had its windows smashed. Across the street, the Marriott Hotel, take a look at that, very four large windows were broken. And, Brooke, basically the scenario we have seen play out over the last few days is during the day you see these protests, they are calm, and peaceful. But at night things turn into chaos.

What happens is when everybody leaves and starts to go home, you have a small band of protesters, two or three dozen people, people wearing masks, trying to hide their identities from police, they throw bottles at the cops, they throw rocks, then when the police move in, they run, and vandalism starts to occur. We know the national guard is on standby if it gets under control. I can tell you over the weekend it got so bad, both U2 and Ed Sheeran had to cancel their concerts. You are talking about not only concerts but all those folks lost out on revenue, hotels.

BALDWIN: So the city watch watches and waits on night number four. Dan, thank you so much in St. Louis.

Coming up next we have endured Harvey and Irma. And now look at this. All eyes on these three, especially hurricane Maria just days after everyone has been reeling across the Caribbean over Irma. This new category 4 storm is heading towards Puerto Rico as we speak. We'll take you there live coming up.


BALDWIN: This is CNN. The most trusted name in news.

We are keeping a close watch on Atlantic has another hurricane heading to a region devastated by the last one. Now we are watching hurricane Maria following the destructive path. Quickly Maria is gaining strength and one of three main storms churning in the Atlantic. Maria taking direct aim at Puerto Rico. Let's go straight to San Juan, our correspondent there is standing by live. Leyla, what's happening there?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of people are getting ready right now, Brooke, you know, there are no schools open today. Yet you still see a lot of traffic, even on this gorgeous day here in Puerto Rico because a lot of people are heading up to those stores trying to get last minute supplies. And when you think about the timing of this for this island, you know, very interesting. A lot of factors playing a role here. There are still 62,000 clients without power right now since Irma came through. And really the power system took quite a hit.

A power system that is already vulnerable given the economic crisis this island is in. And even though there wasn't power for days for a lot of people, Puerto Rico really opened its arms and took in a lot of evacuees from other islands. I went to the town and they had a lot of people from evacuated from Caribbean given the aftermath of Irma. And now they are waiting here waiting to see what comes next from Maria. That is taking a direct aim, as you said, to Puerto Rico. So not only has power been a situation, could be another situation.

Maria is certainly threatening Puerto Rico. When I spoke to a group of people within the last hour, I said what do you think the bigger threat was here, Irma category 5 or Maria category 3 expected to be category 4 to this island, there was no hesitation, all three of them immediately said this is a threat. This could wipe us out and we don't have the resources. That said, the governor has called a state of emergency, requested a state of emergency from the United States. FEMA is on ground. And they do seem to be working to the. We have to wait and see exactly what Maria does. Although talking to people here, there is a lot of fear of what's to come.

BALDWIN: Just to think of all those people in that convention center, as you mentioned from the last go-around, and do they wait it out in Puerto Rico watching this thing as power is already an issue already. Leyla, thank you. I'll check back in you with tomorrow ahead of Maria. And just a quick programming vote before we go. This Friday at 10:00 p.m. a special report we are calling it Twitter and Trump. Twitter and Trump. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.